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Wednesday, February 6, 2008

When Copies Are Abundant, Sell Uncopyable Things

The internet is based on copying; every time something is transmitted, copies are made*. When copies are so abundant that they become worthless in themselves, Kevin Kelly argues in a post, then one needs to sell things which cannot be copied. One of these things is trust:

Trust cannot be copied. You can’t purchase it. Trust must be earned, over time. It cannot be downloaded. Or faked. Or counterfeited (at least for long). If everything else is equal, you’ll always prefer to deal with someone you can trust. So trust is an intangible that has increasing value in a copy saturated world.

Kevin goes on to list 8 things better than free – uncopyable values, which I’m copying from Kevin’s CC-licensed post:

  1. Immediacy: “Sooner or later you can find a free copy of whatever you want, but getting a copy delivered to your inbox the moment it is released – or even better, produced – by its creators is a generative asset.”
  2. Personalization: “A generic version of a concert recording may be free, but if you want a copy that has been tweaked to sound perfect in your particular living room – as if it were preformed in your room – you may be willing to pay a lot.”
  3. Interpretation: “A couple of high profile companies, like Red Hat, Apache, and others make their living doing exactly that. They provide paid support for free software.”
  4. Authenticity: “You might be able to grab a key software application for free, but even if you don’t need a manual, you might like to be sure it is bug free, reliable, and warranted.”
  5. Accessibility: “Many people, me included, will be happy to have others tend our ’possessions’ by subscribing to them. We’ll pay Acme Digital Warehouse to serve us any musical tune in the world, when and where we want it, as well as any movie, photo”.
  6. Embodiment: “You can take a free copy of a work and throw it on a screen. But perhaps you’d like to see it in hi-res on a huge screen? Maybe in 3D?”
  7. Patronage: “Fans like to reward artists, musicians, authors and the like with the tokens of their appreciation, because it allows them to connect. But they will only pay if it is very easy to do, a reasonable amount, and they feel certain the money will directly benefit the creators.”
  8. Findability: “[F]indability is an asset that occurs at a higher level in the aggregate of many works ... When there are millions of books, millions of songs, millions of films, millions of applications, millions of everything requesting our attention – and most of it free – being found is valuable.”

Kevin concludes that money in this networked world does not follow the path of the copies. Rather, it follows the path of attention, and that attention “has its own circuits.”

[Via Friendfeed’s Keith Pelczarski.]

*Though it should be noted traditional copyright hasn’t yet caught up on some of the realities of the net world.


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