I was arguing with someone on Reddit recently over monopoly reform, and instinctively, I started to say “There are a whole galaxy of other business models than selling undifferentiated copies and precluding anyone else from undercutting you.” The key word here is instinctively. If you support reform to current copyright monopoly laws, you spend a lot of time saying that there are other business models.
The Techdirt crowd, for example, embraces the message of “Connect with Fans and Provide a Reason to Buy”. Falkvinge.net is also filled with posts about people embracing “alternative business models” and succeeding. However, is this where we want to keep the discussion at, forever?
- If we propose specifics, we leave ourselves vulnerable to the “but what about A or B? Those couldn’t work with business model C!” It’s an unending cat-and-mouse game. The classic example is the old “How to finance a blockbuster-caliber movie?” trope. Nobody ever considers that maybe the current system is the reason movies have to cost that much, do they?
- If we offer generalities, like “Merchandise and sell experiences instead of commodities”, they tend to be shot down in snarky sound-bites, like “So bands will have to sell T-shirts instead of records?”
- It keeps the conversation on the content industry’s terms. They can be the “victims” needing a “rescue” strategy. It’s sure a great shift of attention from the rest of society being denied access to information and the natural rights to communicate and share.
- It’s needlessly speculative. Indeed, it reminds me a lot of the earliest “home computer” books dumped out by the thousands in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The authors spent hours arguing that we’d all be managing recipies or doing computer-driven teaching, and then VisiCalc happened and people forgot all about recipe-management. No doubt it will be the same. Someone finds the “killer model” for post-monopoly revenue generation, but it’s probably not gonna happen until there’s no other choice but to find one. And much like the cuddly toy in the caption image, some of the suggested models aren’t gonna fly in the real world.
You opened this article to figure out what sort of point I was making with that picture. That shows a viable business model there– weird, custom images to be used as teasers on blogs. Oh, great, I’m starting again…
Let’s stop playing defense.
It’s not our job to figure out how to fix their business models, especially when said business models are based on faulty or untenable assumptions. If you’ve been trying to grow oranges in Alaska, and make up the difference with farm subsidies, the end of subsidies is not a punishment, it’s well-deserved justice.
Instead of answering the same question every third discussion, it’s time to turn the moral argument on its head. “Is it worth it to deny us every piece of art since 1923 to ensure Lady Gaga will be able to get five Bentleys instead of three?” I’m waiting for an answer…