Digital Media and Alternative Compensation Systems

The Berkman Center has just formally launched its Digital Media in Cyberspace project, designed to examine a series of possible future scenarios for the digital media crisis.  Our initial five scenarios — subject to further refinement as we move ahead — are: 1) no change in the law, but the technology continues to advance; 2) taking property rights seriously; 3) technology defenses work; 4) the public utility scenario; and 5) an alternative compensation system.  Our study will analyze these scenarios from economic, business model, legal and public interest angles.  We are grateful for the support of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Open Society Institute of the Soros Foundation, and our partners at Gartner|G2 — notably research director Mike McGuire and VP James Brancheau.  Our research fellow Urs Gasser will be joined by a few others, as well as a team of exceptional students and affiliates, in the months to come.  We also expect to set up a project weblog, a series of meetings and conferences, and to publish some papers on this topic over the next three years or so. 

For a short description of our exploration of the fifth of these scenarios, please see this short piece on Alternative Compensation Systems.

4 thoughts on “Digital Media and Alternative Compensation Systems

  1. What do you mean by “taking property rights seriously”? As far as I can tell there are no property rights affected by Internet music sharing. Are you making the common confusion of a property right in a copyright (which can be bought and sold) with a property right in an expression (which canot)?

  2. Hi Aaron:

    I’m pretty sure I’m not “making the common confusion” to which you point, but I’m not altogether certain what you mean. Please see p. 14 of the Introduction of Terry Fisher’s forthcoming book, Promises to Keep, for a brief description of what we mean <;. The short form is that we’re studying a series of possible directions in which the legal environment might move over the next 3 – 5 years. One possibility is to take seriously the claim of copyright holders that copyrights are indeed property rights and should be viewed as such under the law (i.e., roughly analogous to the legal treatment of real property or personal property). As I think your comment suggests, the current legal regime does not treat copyrights in this manner. The public utility scenario that we are studying takes this premise as a possible jumping-off point as well.


  3. Just checking; are you looking into Scott McCloud’s proposals, set forth here and here? He’s done a lot of thinking on the topic of micropayments and if you haven’t already contacted him, I strongly recommend doing so.

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