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Would you pay a voluntary contribution for your BitTorrent usage?

When it launches tomorrow, the Radiohead price experiment is going to be very interesting to analyze.

(Background: Users pay what they like for the new Radiohead album, from £Free – £100. See the BBC News article)

Having pushed for so long for digital distribution methods that afford us our full rights under copyright (ie no DRM), it’s kinda time that we step up to the plate and prove that today’s digital media consumers are not looking to freeload(… or are we?)

I was just chatting about this issue with a heavy BitTorrent user I know well, who’ll remain anonymous. For her, she finds BitTorrent the most convenient way to select and consume media – she watches a lot of foreign TV and also occasionally enjoys watching video on her PSP (which doesn’t support any DRM-for-video technology even if the content she wants to watch is available in a DRM’d format). Downloading torrent files from sites across the world and transcoding them into a PSP-friendly format has become a simple and painless process which she finds quicker and more convenient for her needs than any DRM system out there right now.

She is frustrated that she has to use what are currently deemed ‘illegal methods’ to obtain the media and can’t do anything to legitimize the content she is viewing.

Donate your money to the Disney, Fox, TimeWarner, et al

Then I had an idea. Wouldn’t it be interesting if there a mechanism whereby people downloading TV and video from sites like ThePirateBay or MiniNova could voluntarily contribute 50c per show they download, with the money going to the media company behind the content?

This would not be propositioned as paying for the video (it’s not the BitTorrent site’s content to sell) but instead would be offered as a voluntary contribution to represent the audience’s willingness to pay for content if offered on the kind of terms they want (easy downloads, p2p, no DRM, etc).

It could be as simple as a simple PayPal-powered system, cutting monthly checks to the top 50 or so TV and media companies around he world. As a symbolic gesture you’d want to get it to the DRM influencer’s in the company rather than the rights holders themselves (I’m sure the EFF has such a list).

If it caught on, it could help push the momentum to just give us the space in which we can play fair – just like Radiohead are hoping will happen with their new album “In Rainbows”.

Published in Media2.0 Thoughts and Rants


  1. Its a nice idea, I prefer the idea that you pay $x a year and can then download whatever rubbish you wish in what ever format there is available.

  2. ceedee ceedee

    How about we agree to pay 1c per downloaded show and then another 49c if we think it was worth watching?

    Similarly, how many folks will only pay a small amount to download the Radiohead album but then go on to buy the retail box when it’s released?

  3. social pricing wouldnt work if the recipient is a big media Co. rather than a band with a massive cult following (radiohead). It might work if it was hypothecated for a particular show though.

  4. James James

    Per download price is not an option for me.

    The way I see it is this: Paying one lump sum per year to access whatever content I want is the way forward. I don’t spend £200 a year on DVD’s, let alone TV but I would be willing to pay a one lump sum like this to have unlimited access to all TV and (though highly unlikely) movies. For me the model works as the companies make garanteed money straight up and I also know that I am not going to be paying by the “item”. This is why Napster works for me, I pay a monthly fee and I have music – since I joined Napster I’ve never once downloaded warez MP3’s, I simply haven’t needed too.

    There are two other major problems to consider. America is ALWAYS ahead on TV and unless they start to distribute AT THE SAME TIME I won’t change my current habits. Additionally the money they make from this avenue would have to compensate for the loss of revenue from distribution channels, e.g. Sky 1 etc.

  5. Dan Jolt Dan Jolt

    Paying 50c per downloaded TV show sounds about right to me, if it’s paid only for stuff I watch at least half way through. It would add up to 15 Eur/month if you watch one show daily or 30 Eur/month if you watch two. This is close to what pay TV cost here – but pay TV doesn’t have anything I would want to watch on a daily basis.

    The only problem: Using bittorrent is quite illegal here with more restrictive laws coming up in 2008 which even clearly forbid download-only acquiring of video from unofficial sources.

    So currently I pay the things I load and really like by buying the DVD-boxset when it comes out.

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