Give in order to get

We must loosen our grasp on our written property in order to keep it from slipping out of our hands entirely.

See here: “Design and presentation, eventually, won’t matter. Your core content still will.”

The conclusion is maybe one step more dramatic—because it’s important to stress that your “core” content is only any given part of your overall content. Expect another company not only to re-design and re-present your content but also to select only chunks or slivers, re-ordered and even re-mixed or re-worded.

But how to make money from content, then, if everyone’s pilfering and spinning? One answer is Attributor, which takes a “fingerprint” of your text. A system of presentation (say, a future newspaper’s own site) could then analyze any piece of content (say, article A) and detect whether it’s 50 percent original, 25 percent article X, and 25 percent article Y. The system could then share only half as much advertising revenue with the writer of article A and divert the rest in equal parts to the writers of X and Y. No harm, no foul. The writer of A didn’t necessarily plagiarize in any normatively bad sense, but article A is only half his, and it’s one-quarter X’s and one-quarter Y’s. They get their due, fair and square.

Or the writers of X and Y can serve a take-down notice. But if they do, they give up their 25 percent of the shared advertising. It’s just economics—remixed economics that may let us breathe a sigh of relief, loosen our death grip on our precious but ultimately fungible words, and begin to make profit and a living nevertheless.

If writers X and Y want the shared advertising revenue from our future newspaper, they must agree to let others replicate it. Some writers won’t, especially at first. But the smarter writers will.

Re-use is no blow to their writerly esteem. Their original works are no less poetic (or, more likely, godawful) because others spin them into new forms. We are not gawking through a looking glass into another world where re-use is an anonymous, miscegenated norm. Let us trust that the White Album won’t vanish, that the Blank Album won’t dissolve, and that the Gray Album will be a good listen—in its own right, appropriately so. Thank you, Mr. Beatles. Much obliged, Mr. Z. And a job well done to you, Mr. Mouse. Authorship is too human for us to ignore it when someone tells us something, his story, his story.

Could there be Attributor equivalents for audio and video?


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