A Successful Linux/Open-Source Business Model

Tom discusses how to use the Public Domain and community open-source projects to subvert media conglomerates.

Copyright must be sufficiently robust to support a vibrant, diverse, and innovative sector for the creation and distribution of original expression. At [the] same time, once copyright has given sufficient support to creative autonomy, copyright's constitutive objectives are better served by placing works in the public domain than by continuing to transfer consumer surplus to copyright owners. At that point, so long as public domain works are adequately available to the public, continued protection would place an undue burden on authors, all of whom borrow from existing works in creating new ones, and undue cost on those who simply wish to read, see, or hear such works. Or, put in economic terms, once copyright's democratic goals have been substantially funded, consumer surplus is better allocated to subsidizing both transformative and nontransformative uses of existing works for a broad array of educational and cultural purposes.-- "Copyright and a Democratic Civil Society", Neil Weinstock Netanel, 106 Yale Law Journal 283 (1996)

Unfortunately, these words and their associative meanings will have to be placed in the drawer for historical artifacts. The bottom line at this time is that between the Berne Convention and the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS), the US is "locked in" pretty much on the copyright term issue. Seems that this global commercialization trend requires that we match the country that offers the longest and most advantageous copyright (that includes the patent arena as well) protections. Well, we've done that and more. The US holds a twenty year edge or more in most categories of copyright and patent protection. Little will be occurring in the challenge to get us back to the "good 'ol days".

So, what to do? Well, we need to talk about the Public Domain. It seems to have all but disappeared, along with the original intent of copyright. The Public Domain will have to be rediscovered. Incentives for placing works in the Public Domain will have to be invented. Forget the copyright owners; they can go stew in their juices. As Don Marti would say, in the spirit of Linuxmanship, "Sell the benefits, not the features."

Turning the Tables

What if? What if there was a nice way to provide incentive to those who would create and innovate solely on works placed within the Public Domain? No protection, just incentive. No fabulous wealth unless, luck would have it, the creator happened to hit on the right marketing strategy to attract an audience and provide merchandising products that, along with tours, personal appearances, concerts, exhibits and offers of commissions for further works, produce wealth. I believe I just described one of the fathers of the Public Domain ilk, The Grateful Dead, and their system is remade in the image of Open Studios.

Open Studios is a nonprofit organization dedicated to broadening the base of our precious Public Domain. The folks at Open Studios are developing a "model" (version 1.0 is up and running) that creates community-based recording studios. These facilities provide free recording services for the residents of a community and the surrounding areas. In return, the users of the facilities are encouraged to place their works in the Public Domain. Open Studios provides a comprehensive package of services and products. As a 501(c)(3) (application pending) charitable organization, it does not envision making money. It does, however, fill out the grant applications, public-private partnership agreements, federal, state and local funding opportunities and assist communities in garnering the resources that might be missing in order for the facility to be built and operated at maximum efficiency.

A community that needs experts in the recording field can work with Open Studios to identify solutions. A community that needs computers to set up networks between the schools and the community-based studio can work with Open Studios to accomplish that task. And the list is ever-expanding. One of the primary functions of Open Studios lies with its' interest in developing curricula and programs that meet the local needs of the community-based studios. Marketing courses, internet courses, business courses, music-related courses, these all contribute to preparing young and old artists alike for a professional track that doesn't include Hollywood but does include Linux and the Internet.

Those who might be concerned about placing their musical works on the Internet and losing money need not worry any longer. The Internet is a remarkable vehicle for building an audience. That audience will grow, and the opportunity to market to that audience includes such things as merchandise, tours, concerts and commissions to create new works. Imagine for a moment an artist that creates a "love song", places it on the Internet and offers that song, along with another, in a heart-shaped device on a necklace. How many teenagers and lovesick adults would buy it? Imagine a device that plays Public Domain songs, lets the user blog, e-mail and possibly do a little desktop publishing, and the computer is plastered with the artists' names. Yes, we have entered the musical designer series for technology devices world. Of course, we haven't begun to cover webcasting and the webcasters who will not only give artists exposure but who will also sell and market with and for them.

This is a wonderful age for music and for the Public Domain. It's also a wonderful age for all forms of creative works, with authors able to use the Internet to further their careers by placing works in the Public Domain, and selling books, tours, speaking engagements and, yes, designer merchandising.

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Re: A Successful Linux/Open-Source Business Model

Anonymous's picture

If a programmer cant make money by designing a software because of such businesses done on Linux then he will have no choice then to make a career in ACCOUNTANCY

Re: A Successful Linux/Open-Source Business Model

tompoe's picture

Hi: Would you want the studios to be outfitted with Microsoft operating systems and windows products? In your community, you could try that, if you want to, but the cost might be a whole lot higher. Let me know. We'll do our best to help you. The idea is to get low-cost, high-quality equipment and services for those who need help. The other thing you might think about is investing some time in working with Open Source programming. If you're locked into just working with Visual Basic, then you'll need to convince the community to build a higher cost studio. My email address is: tompoe@renonevada.net

Thanks,

Tom Poe

Reno, NV

http://www.studioforrecording.org/

http://www.ibiblio.org/studioforrecording/

Re: A Successful Linux/Open-Source Business Model

Anonymous's picture

Even though this articis per se about the business model of Linux - there is one thing that I have always wondered about. In the the kind of model advovated above, what does one do if one actually wants to make money? Any business models that work while not keeping the programmers starving?

Re: A Successful Linux/Open-Source Business Model

tompoe's picture

Hi: Very good point. I wonder if you might think about what happens when the community-based recording studio is up and running in your community. Groups, schools, churches, and all kinds of people will make recordings for all kinds of events, projects, announcements, businesses, even.

They will all want to format their digital files they created to do lots of things, such as flyers, announcements, web pages, messages to cell phones, formatted for presentation on TV, radio, displayed in PDA's. All of this needs programmers to assist them.

So, what you see when you start your community-based recording studio in your community, is opportunity knocking.

Let us know if we can help you "champion" a recording studio for your community.

Thanks,

Tom Poe

Reno, NV

That's what Linus Torvalds started

Anonymous's picture

"That's what Linus Torvalds started"

Well sort of...

Richard Stallman started it.

Linus Torvalds helped it to explode.

An example

Anonymous's picture

Example:

Small time artist records an album and puts it in the public domain. Big band hears about it, likes it, sees it's in the public domain, covers the song and passes it off as their own. Now the small time artist has no right to sue them, won't gain any recognition from the song since the big band isn't required to give them any credit, and basically gets screwed over.

Am I supposed to believe that I'm living in a world where everyone is honorable and gives credit where credit is due? There's no way. This is why we have copyright, so the owner retains his rights to his works.

Re: An example

Anonymous's picture

Yes, unfortunately, that is the world.

And that is why RMS and the FSF use the *COPYRIGHTED* GPL to stop exactly that happening to software. I don't always see eye-to-eye with RMS, but I have a lot of respect for the GPL model. It provides all the important benefits of Public Domain, while seriously limiting the drawbacks.

Let's modify your example:

Small time artist misic-GPLs their work.

Big band likes it and use it. But they still have to credit the parts they didn't do themselves.

Any band can perform the work for money and charge for a recording of the work, but the lyrics and musical score must be made avaliable under the music-GPL ALONG WITH any modifications made also music-GPLd. So any band can re-perform even the famous band's style for that song.

Of course there isn't an exact corelation between music and software and there are added problems in the latter implimentation which is why I say music-GPL (an as-far-as-I-know hypothetical thing) as distinct from the software-GPL. Working out the similarities and differences and deciding what to do about them is where the lawyers come in.

Public domain is fine if you don't mind immediately giving up control of your work. If copyright were implemented properly as originaly intended, I don't think there would be a problem. But money talks politispeak and the common good has been flushed down the toilet.

My home culture allows only 8 years copyright protection commencing on publication. Modifications are copyrighted on the date of their publication. For example, StarWars is out of copyright, but all the new/redone scenes in the re-release are under copyright just now. Technically if you got the re-release and cut out all the new scenes you could freely distribute it but that doesn't happen - you'd just use the original release. Besides, the re-release has enough value added that prople are happy to buy it.

Re: An example

tompoe's picture

Hi: Excellent points. I'd like to amplify on what you've said, if I may. In the Digital Age, we have a different situation arise, that was not present before. In the Digital Age, a recording is a document, a file, a digitized rendering of someone's voice, or visual screen capture, like in a video, as well as a text-based expression.

This means that a song can be more than just an audio recording, and can be expressed through a variety of formats. With that in mind, a musician or artist can control distribution of the recording, an author, as well. Beyond that, there is the Internet, a means to communicate across geographic boundaries without limits. Thus, a musician or artist, today, can create a work and have an audience that is instantly worldwide. Marketing strategies are not reliant on middlemen who have the ability to reach out and build audiences for artists.

http://www.pdfoundation.org/ is a site that can be considered one example of what can be done with the Internet. A single song, which over a few years, has generated over $2 million dollars. While all that is happening, careers can move forward with unlimited variations on the theme. Don't forget, we're also in the earliest stages of what will be called, "The Designer Device Manufacturing" age, as well. Miniaturization of computers has led to lower manufacturing costs, and the ability to create specialized devices for paging, listening to music, phones, hand-held computers, even little necklaces with the shape of a heart to hold one's favorite recordings.

Add the other commercialization options, and a musician or artist need not fear "giving their song away". The Creative Commons Project at http://www.creativecommons.org offers an excellent infrastructure for ensuring credit for songs and other artistic and literary works.

Thanks,

Tom Poe

Reno, NV

Re: An example

Anonymous's picture

I'd certainly like to see a list of real people who benefit from these organizations. Perhaps you could point us to some of them so that they can be interviewed....

Re: An example

Anonymous's picture

Hi, Anonymous: Open Studios was incorporated on May 22, 2002, and filed for 501(c)(3) status with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service on the 26th of May. That step is a prerequisite for participating in funding programs at the Federal, State, and most local levels as well. You won't see any physical facility for some time, unless the right person(s) within a given community come together to build one.

As to people that already benefit from this "model", there are dozens, I would assume right within your community. For example, if you were to visit your church of choice, and ask them to envision what benefits a community-based recording studio might provide them, the list would grow rapidly right before your very eyes. And, that's a Good Thing.

If you visit with any artist in town, and ask them if a community-based recording studio might help them to develop a web site that reaches and attracts a worldwide audience under this "model", you'll be impressed with their ideas on what they might do. They might want to utilize the studio to synch sound with their works, to provide "packaged" merchandise that is sold through programs developed to assist such endeavors, through of course, the community-based recording studios. The National Association of Recording Merchandisers is a good stop on your list of people to interview. If you reach out to Pam Horovitz, the President of the NARM organization, she'll set you up with someone to work with from their perspective. Once everyone is familiar with what Open Studios does, you'll be amazed, I'm sure, at what the technology could, and will do, once the ball is rolling. They don't care whether it's copyrighted or not, as long as the client pays.

In the meantime, leave your email address on our mailing list, and follow along. Or, better, let us help you get a community-based recording studio built for your town.

Thanks,

Tom

Reno, NV

http://www.studioforrecording.org/

http://www.ibiblio.org/studioforrecording/

Re: A Successful Linux/Open-Source Business Model

Anonymous's picture

Dream on, even independent musicians want copyright protections on their CD's. The people who wanted GPL-styled music copyright belongs to a fringe group of a fringe group.

http://www.theregister.co.uk/content/archive/24947.html

The definition of "public domain" also needs to be examined. Public domain is more in line with BSD-license than GPL-license. Disney takes characters (like cinderella and sleeping beauty) that are in public domain and then makes a proprietary versions of them.

Do you think big stars like Alanis Morissette really cares about your right to use mp3's. Dream on, she got about $24 million worth of mp3.com stocks at the height of the internet boom.

http://www.salon.com/tech/log/1999/09/29/silicon_cd/

The Reason there are gatekeepers...

Anonymous's picture

As someone who has offered fairly expert ;-) recording services to the public at a modest fee ($25/hr), I have one major problem with this. Most people who think they are talented and have something to say are, in fact, HORRIBLE. Since most engineers/producers tend to be fairly accomplished musicians themselves, it pains them to have to work for the dreggs who were able to come up with a few hundred bucks. An endless stream of little kids who think they're gonna be the latest hip-hop sensation? It's those rare jewels that come through the door that keeps recording engineers getting up in the afternoon. This sounds like a dream, but without some kind of gatekeeping mechanism, it will be a nightmare.

Re: The Reason there are gatekeepers...

tompoe's picture

Hi: That's why we expect you to continue being successful. The primary purpose of this niche is to open the doors for the residents of communities to utilize the technology of the 21st Century. From the women's groups at the Senior Citizens homes that want to record their conversations for making gifts for friends and relatives, to local groups that want multi-media capability for their events and programs and causes, to young and old musicians and artists that want to find out if they can build an audience and move on towards a career in music or the arts. Best of luck to you, and hope you actively help make such a facility possible in your community.

Thanks,

Tom Poe

Reno, NV

http://www.studioforrrecording.org/

http://www.ibiblio.org/studioforrecording/

Where's the Successful Linux/Open-Source Business Model?

Anonymous's picture

This is all very interesting and seems like a great project, but I'm having trouble seeing how the title is related to the actual article....

Re: Where's the Success Model?

garym's picture

There's two parts of being successful: You need good product, and you need good management. I'll assert that we don't see enough of either in the Linux space, and that's why there are precious few success stories. I'll also assert that what does work is exactly what this article is proposing for music, and the best example is Linux-embedded.

Through bundling, refining and delivering freely developed applications, the Linux handheld or wireless-hub produces a more robust product for less money; in my business (crafting internet services) I could not hope to re-create even a fraction of the needed code to do something like a http://cbc.ca ... but I can amass highly complex parts honed over the past several years by thousands of real-world applications, massage them and thread them together, and produce a world-class service with only my own two hands and the limited hours in a man-month.

Thus, we have the vehicle, but IMHO, there are lots of bad driving examples, and as a result, we keep the market closed, cut off from the larger real-world marketplace. We suffer from bad design (we design for ourselves instead of for "other people" not realizing that people like us do not buy this kind of stuff, they build it themselves by stringing together free software!) and we suffer from bad management (case in point: Corel thought the infrastructure for Linux desktops would magically appear if only it had multi-millions in VC, a sales-force in suits; it died totally ignoring the well-documented time-lags between introduction and mainstream -- you can't catch the sun, and you can't push it either!).

The same will be true of the music that goes into this project: A bad band, or even a band way ahead of their time, they can have all the free studio time in the world and the best producers money can buy, but it won't get their acid-throat-music or grunge-gospel-polka-funk into lockets on teen necks everywhere. It's still going to take time to change the world, and a lot of innovators are going to get discarded along the way. What it does do is let us have variety and opportunity, and the time-lag equations do say that the first step is always to take a first step.

Re: Where's the Successful Linux/Open-Source Business Model?

tompoe's picture

Hi: I think you may be looking for a corporate business model, much as Red Hat, SuSE, Mandrake, and others are pursuing. This "model" is for community-based facilities that provide a stepping stone for musicians and artists that may not want to pursue today's "professional track" options.

Imagine how many bands across the nation might want to strike out on their own, following a business strategy much like The Grateful Dead did. Or, imagine a writer that records short stories, places them in the Public Domain, but then also offers "packaged" merchandise for gifts and presents. These community-based facilities make the options available to those who are otherwise unable to afford the investment and training necessary to compete in our Digital Age.

Hope this clears it up some. If not, email me.

Thanks,

Tom Poe

Reno, NV

Re: Where's the Successful Linux/Open-Source Business Model?

garym's picture

And there is ample precident for this in the arts prior to the Invasion of the Copyright Holders. For example, Beethoven paid no royalties to Shiller for the librettos; people paid to see/hear Hayden or Schubert for who they were, not because exhorbitant license fees restricted the works to just them.

Seriously: Which would you rather have, your favourite song as done by your favourite band, or as done by your local bar-circuit dreggs. So why stop those dreggs from playing the song, learning from it, reverse-engineering it, and making all of music a bit better? Yet, today, I cannot even play traditional material in your local venue without paying a tithe that only goes to feed poor Sarah McLaughlan (or whoever the pop top diva of the hour may be) because that is how royalties are divvied.

For the 2000 Earth Day, my partner was commissioned to write a song for a major celebration; she released the song under the opencontent.org license, and sure enough, it was picked up by at least 4 other Earth Day fests. That's more audience than we'd ever dreamed possible, and since we were paid for our original recording broadcast by the sponsor event, we were happy.

We can also move on: There is no need to dwell on that recording as something precious, we can gleefully re-record it differently, re-cast it into a labour song, write a new one ... the artistry remains fluid and adaptable. Cast in a tight license, it is just some dots on a page.

Re: Where's the Successful Linux/Open-Source Business Model?

Anonymous's picture

Beethoven finished his Ninth Symphony, Op. 125 some 40 years after Schiller originally published his poem and some 20 years after Schiller died. Schiller's copyright to his poem, Ode to Joy, would have already been lapsed and the copyrights be reverted back into the public domain by the time Beethoven wrote his Choral Symphony.

Several hundred years ago, musicians had kings and princes as their patrons. Even Beethoven was paddling his symphonies around to the likes of General Wellington (who defeated Napoleon at Waterloo).

Seriously, would you prefer Beethoven to actually make his living by getting copyright payments so that he can spend his all his time writing beautiful music OR would you prefer Beethoven to spend months at a time travelling to various countries to paddle his works to your local kings and queens and not have the time to write music.

Re: Where's the Successful Linux/Open-Source Business Model?

tompoe's picture

Hi: Thanks for the comments, and I hope you'll contact us to help get a community-based recording studio built in your town.

Tom Poe

Reno, NV

http://www.studioforrecording.org/

http://www.ibiblio.org/studioforrecording/

Re: Where's the Successful Linux/Open-Source Business Model?

Anonymous's picture

The Grateful Dead was successful in this model

because they got most of their customers to

do drugs. What brand of drugs do you suggest

with your business model?

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