Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Fixing The Content Industry: Legalizing And Profiting From Filesharing

A law should be created that allows for file sharing sites (eg: torrent trackers, cyberlockers) to acquire a license that gives itself and its users some limited degree of copyright immunity.

The licensed filesharing service can permit filesharing from individuals who have "copyright immunity". Obtaining copyright immunity involves payment of a standard monthly fee (which can be paid anonymously) to a central authority. This central authority would operate a federated OpenID system filesharing websites could subscribe for verification of the user's status. We can argue about how the monthly fee would work (what would it be, would it be the same for everyone) but that's a separate concern. The only thing I feel is important is it should be high enough that it generates useful revenue for content authors, but low enough that it is affordable for almost everyone (tiered pricing based on ability to pay may be one possibility).

Implications of "Copyright Immunity":
  • No one possessing copyright immunity can be held liable for copyright infringement on works obtained from licensed filesharing services, where the intended use of the copyrighted work is non-commercial. This is regardless of the copyright status of the work shared, or the nature of the work.
  • Commercial use is permitted in case of individual commercial proprietorship. This is because too authoritarian to audit anyway. The exception is in the case where it can be proven that the individual proprietor largely does his commercial activity for one entity (ie. as a de-facto employee).
  • Derivative works (remixing) are explicitly permitted, even for fully commercial purposes. This is subject to two conditions:
    • The  derivative work is ONLY shared on licensed file sharing sites. 
    • A derivative work MUST explicitly give credit to the originator of the work in a way that is easily attributable to the originator by software (I explain why later).

The files shared on these sites could be "claimed" by a copyright holder (although NOT removed!) it would than go into a system which a third party anonymously audits how many downloads this file has, and using a formula can disperse proceeds originating from the monthly fee to the copyright holders. Derivative works will be legally permitted using a system that rewards both the originator (as listed in the remix's metadata) and the derivative.

The formula is largely auxiliary to the main point but here are some properties I'd like it to have:
  • Publicly known. IE: Not like Spotify.
  • Balanced in a way that encourages a middle class. Here is a specific idea on how to accomplish that: 
    • Individual proprietors are scored based on the popularity of their each of their works relative to similar works in the same field, summed. This score is used to place the individual proprietor along a Bell-curve scale which determines their final salary. To allow for financial stability, the score is a weighted-sum including all past scores from the last 20 years (which the further away it is from the present, the less of a component it is in the score). Even if their work suddenly becomes so last year, their payment will not decline by a massive amount. The age of the author may also have some effect on how the weighted-sum works (it can start to smooth out more), to allow for something like a retirement pension.
    • When involving corporations, they can be paid in proportion using a similar philosophy to above, but paid multiplicatively to the number of employees they have. Hey, it's also encouragement for companies to retain (hopefully good) talent!

This work takes part in the Future of Copyright Contest

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