On going “ping” rather than “ka-ching”

Recent posts and comments by David Churbuck and Johnnie Moore formed the kernels for this post. Thanks, guys.

I quote from David’s post on Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead:

The Dead were the first band to encourage their fans to record shows and share them. As Garcia said, when the band was done with the music it was the fan’s to share. The only rule was no selling or profiteering and the fans were self-policing, criticizing anyone who tried to sell bootlegs.

People have often asked me how I dared to state that Jerry Garcia influenced my thinking on opensource more than any other person. There’s no better answer than the quote above.

When the band was done with the music it was the fan’s to share. We should call this the Garcia Rule. [David, you seem best placed to get this Rule published :-) no attribution necessary except to Jerry]

Everything else is secondary. Much of the pushback and anger to do with DRM and IPR issues is captured in that sentence. Everyone’s happy to pay for value created. But not to keep paying for it. We want creativity in the regeneration and augmentation of value, in the co-creation of that value, in the distribution of that value. Instead what we have is creativity in the regeneration and augmentation of cost, of billing. Pah.

Which takes me to Johnnie’s comment on my altruism post. We need to claim our right to be altruistic back, I cannot understand how altruism somehow became pinko lefty degenerate.

Human beings’ brains are wired to go “ping” when they understand something, not “ka-ching”. We will land up monetising what we do Because Of rather than With. And maybe sometimes we won’t. Maybe often we won’t.

So I continue to question and challenge things that make it hard for us to go “ping”, to have that bulb light up in individual and collective heads.

  • When the band was done with the music it was the fan’s to share.
  • When the teacher was done with the lesson it was the student’s to share.
  • When the writer was done with the book it was the reader’s to share.

There is a set of premises, both explicit as well as tacit, when we exchange value. Any attempt to change those premises post-facto is questionable, to say the very least.

People get paid for doing things, and understand how they get paid for it. Take the copyright argument, this amazing realisation that songs published in 1958 will go out of copyright in a few years time. Did the artists know about this in 1958? I guess so, but maybe they didn’t understand or care. Did they know about it in the 1960s? I guess so, though maybe they were too stoned to figure it out. I find it hard to believe that they’ve suddenly come to this realisation. What they’re doing is breaking the Garcia Rule. We’ve already paid for it.

  • An aside: If you bought a fifty-year lease on a house you knew what the premises were. If you landed up living longer than you expected, and the lease was about to expire, you would have to pay more to extend the lease.
  • Novelists and songwriters understood the deal they were entering into. If they want to extend the period of copyright then maybe they, the novelists and songwriters, should pay for it. And the payments can be placed into a Creative Commons -like pool and be used for fighting bad DRM and IPR law.
  • On the other hand maybe that’s a bad idea, when I see what happens with things like the Universal Service Fund. Or maybe we can avoid that by opensourcing the management of that fund.

2 thoughts on “On going “ping” rather than “ka-ching””

  1. Making the same point from a the perspective of economics – as the cost of production and distribution of songs, books, etc. heads towards zero so will the price. That’s from the Long Tail.

    So fans will spend their money on something else – like gigs or merchandise. Which is already happening. I think it was Keith Richards who said a couple of years ago that the Stones now release albums to support tours, not the other way round. And that’s from me.

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