Kulturflatrate – its not just the pirates who want it

re:publica 2015
Business & Innovation

Short thesis: 

A multidisciplinary research group at the Institute of Information Law (IViR) at the University of Amsterdam conducted a large-scale empirical social, economic and legal study of Alternative Compensation Systems (ACS), which, for a small monthly fee would legalize currently copyright infringing online practices. We have shown that digital consumers and pirates show strong support for such a non-market based way of paying for digital content, and they are willing to put their money where their mouth is. The ACS idea enjoys considerable legitimacy, and would be welfare enhancing. But it would also completely upset the status quo. What are the consequences?


Last year we set out to explore the legal, economic and social feasibility of an Alternative Compensation System (CCS), which, for a small monthly fee would legalize currently infringing online social practices such as private copying from illegal sources and online sharing of copyrighted works. We were interested in whether an ACS that would solve the problem of online copyright infringement would be legally possible, welfare increasing and socially acceptable. We found that the ACS idea in general is not only legally feasible, but can enhance social welfare. We also found that the CCS idea enjoys considerable social support among a representative sample of Dutch citizens.

Interestingly enough, this support is the strongest among those who already use legal access alternatives the most: pirates and digital consumers. In effect, the more someone uses the current legal alternatives, the more he or she is inclined to support the ACS idea. We interpret the support for the ACS alternative as a discontent with the status quo, with the currently available legal alternatives.

Discontent consumers are joining the ever growing number of authors and performers who express their frustration with the royalties streaming services offer, and the level of control these new, but immensely powerful intermediaries have over the access to audiences. An ACS-based alternative would not necessarily increase the control of artists over distribution, but at least it would weaken the exclusive position of current digital intermediaries, while providing higher levels of revenue then the status quo.  All of these arguments seem to be in support of the CCS idea. Whether that is enough to initiate a change, is the main question of the talk.

Thursday, May 7, 2015 - 10:30 to 11:00