KarmaMole The View From Here..

Foundations of A Broadcast-Based Financial Compensation Model


As a listener – as the audience – I am driven towards media that I like.

I am infotropic, so to speak. Some data, some information, some inherent artistic or intellectual order manifests to me through songs, books, movies, and various other forms of media. Wanting this information is as basic to my spiritual/intellectual/cultural self as water is to my biological. In that sense, it feels like more than a want; it feels like a morally justifiable right. I want to pay for the stuff I like, in fact – proud to pay for it when it’s easy to, and when the compensation requested is within my budget. However, it seems that withholding the data, on condition of compensation, is somehow contrary to the essence of information itself, to a moral imperative inherent in information – to the very fact that information seems to want to spread. It is self-reproducing.

As a musician – I am in a quandary.

I know that the best of the music that I make is not truly only mine. That is not ontologically exclusive to me – that I am simply a partner to a history of sounds, a history of lyrics, a history of patterns and shapes, and tempos. A whole data cluster to which I have been privy and to which I am the host. I try to take some credit, of course, but all in all – there is a partnership.

At the very best of times – and this can be confirmed, I think – by any musician or anybody who has engaged in the artistic process..at the best of times – it seems that a partnership is created between the whole data cluster itself and the moment I find myself in. At those times, ever so briefly, the thing lives and moves seemingly of its own accord – the guitar player, singer, or actor experiences an actual ongoing sense of surprise. It is as though the information itself has become alive – taken over both artist and time.

It is very, very hard to take complete credit for experiences such as these. For many, the experience itself is so humbling – so necessary – that incurring the wrath of its muse doesn’t quite seem wise.

As a musician, I want everybody to hear all of my tracks. I might not need, and excusing myself with vanity, might choose not to want everybody to like my tracks – but it somehow seems to matter that anybody who wants something should get the chance to hear it.

Charging people for this seems, on the face of it – stupid.

But the less music pays me, the more I have to do something that isn’t music. The more I do something that isn’t music, the less music I make. The less music I make, the less music you hear.

So, this just doesn’t work.

Copyright issues on the web have had us all in flames. I assume that everybody is right.

  1. There is absolutely no excuse for different regional release dates in an online world – or data-blockages of any sort. Any data available anywhere should be available everywhere.
  2. Data, in all forms – must be available to whoever can reach it. A ONE TO ONE profit situation (where a certain profit unit is made PER unit data-form sold) – should only be levied on products in which it the data-form is encoded into actual material. All pure data-forms (non-material) cost no material to duplicate and therefore a ONE TO ONE profit situation should neither be expected, nor condoned. Any attempt to do so is nothing less than a willful chocking of information.
  3. Data that has no purpose other than the creation of material profit is almost by definition working against the very nature of informational growth – which seeks to free itself from material as much as possible so as to propagate as fast as possible, ultimately – as fast as light. This point must be understood.
  4. Artist must be compensated in accordance with a) the will of the audience to listen to those artists, and b) the ability of the artist to sustain their art work through self-sustaining artwork or engaging some of their time towards more high-yield commercial investments.

Having established the above – a mechanism is necessary for satisfying points 1-4. Copyright protection schemes ALL violate 1,2 & 3 because they all attempt to establish a one-to-one relationship between data-form duplicated and material compensation.

The situation as such:

  1. User pays his ISP for his web connectivity.
  2. User downloads data. Some downloads are paid for, others are not. Protection systems increase the suggested price of the data to the paying user, and further convince the non-paying user that product is not worth the compensation requested.
  3. As far as the user is concerned – he has (in his mind) somewhat already paid. He did that back in step 1 when he paid his ISP.
  4. RIAA and other such entities sue the ISP for duplicating their data without license, and the user for downloading the data.

The failure to create un-crackable data protection systems is due to the inherent desire of information to grow. All such attempts are attempts to dry wetness.

What needs to happen is:

  1. The user, who previously paid X/bandwidth pays 2x or some such ratio for his web connectivity. The user might initially gripe about this, but once he absolves himself of the paranoia of the RIAA beating down his wife’s door, and savors the contribution he knows he is actually materially making to the artists whose work he enjoys – will be more than happy. The industry needs to understand one thing – it’s not that the user doesn’t want to pay, it’s that he either cannot afford it – or that the mechanism of payment is too awkward.
  2. The ISP collects the money and keeps its share of it – let’s say one of those 2 x’s.
  3. The other ‘x’ or portion goes to a Data Indexing and Re-Investment authority along with a file detailing the file-download stats for that month – anonymously reported in totals.
  4. This authority then compensates the authors of the data in proportion to their downloads share. This raises one issue still in need of resolution – simple ideas – the paper-clips of ‘data’ – let’s say – will be picked up so ubiquitously that by sheer number – even though the data-packet itself may be small – it’ll still make something for its creator. Other data-packages such as movies or video games, might take up a greater bandwidth share per duplicate simply because they are bigger in size. So in that sense, the big productions will still make more money. Some problems might arise with people bloating their data consciously in order to get have more of a duplication index – but the counter to that, is that online reviews will work against it the more it chooses to do so.
  5. Payments will not always be one-to-one, more importantly, they shouldn’t be. People who have the luxury to pay will always be the first to get it cause that’s where the streams originate. They are the people who are most data-hungry, and the ones that most can afford it. They want to pay if it means they get it, and they will pay a high bandwidth premium to download sooner as well as in quantity.
  6. This may well mean that artists might take a hit, honestly, not many will mind. Most complaints come from the companies whose main gripe is simply because they are in the habit of thinking of their data as matter, and not information. In doing so, they still expect a one-to-one data-form to money relationship when it neither possible, nor good.
  7. ALL attempts to block data duplication are inherently ill conceived. Release or don’t release. The only protection necessary is a copyright registrar. The producer need not get paid per duplicate as much as he needs to be able to prove that it is his data-form.

Similar systems are already done for radio. Artists get compensated by authorities that monitor the airwaves and get reports from radio stations and broadcasters. That’s how somebody somewhere gets paid whenever a radio station somewhere plays Happy Birthday. Systems for doing this are already somewhat in place for radio. By all means – a completely digital medium should be even easier to administer.

And that’s how I think this particular dragon can be laid to rest.

About the author


KarmaMole is a nickname for Omar Kamel. He is a writer, musician, photographer, director, and producer. He makes things out of words and sounds and images. He spent three years of his life in a futile fight for a better future in Tahrir Square and has more opinions than any mortal man should be allowed. Some of them are on this blog.

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