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To whom belongs the progress?

Let us forget for a moment the rights holders of basic technique such as ploughing, cutting and hacking – even if these are inventions that have put mankind on the path we are still following today. Language and scripture enable us to express our thoughts without having currently to pay licenses or fees for the speaking and writing – if we forget for a moment the publishing media. Antibiotics were already used by the ancient Egyptians. Only the publication of Alexander Fleming and the widespread use in the Second World War led to today’s usage of penicillin. Or remember the graphical user interface for which the whole world thanks Steve Jobs, although the original Eureka had Xerox. In the past, the biggest problem was not knowing a particular solution. Today there are applications that solve difficult situations, but belong to individual companies that decide whether and at what price they are available. Just think of the medical compound of Ocrelizumab, which cost as part of the treatment of active rheumatoid arthritis (RA) a tenth of today’s price in a MS therapy. Shouldn’t life-prolonging things be available independently of economic calculations?

Who actually owns all the progress that is being made? And who can decide on its application? Possible candidates are the following.

  • Discoverer/Inventor
    In the interests of further progress, the originators should be remunerated for their efforts. However, this does not mean that they should have long-term power to decide on further use or to determine the pricing according to the laws of supply and demand.
  • Enterprises
    Even companies that have invested in research over a long period of time are entitled to compensation for their efforts. The reward for their research should not only be limited to successful discoveries, but should also be given for developments that have not yet resulted in the desired outcome. This eliminates the arguments for exaggerated commercialization.
  • State
    As a representative of the population, state agencies would be the ideal jurisdiction, if they would not pursue national interests. A cautionary example of where this „We first“ leads to, we can currently observe. Such state dictatorships are not adequate stewards of progress.
  • Humankind
    All that remains is the entire humanity. Fundamental developments, such as certain medicines, the Internet and common goods (e.g. roads, railways, water sources, energy producers, electricity and communication networks), used by all, should not be managed by corporations but be fairly made available by neutral organizations that are obliged to the commonalty.

Bottom line: The fact that progress is not fairly distributed due to the economization is not progress, but a step back into prehistoric times, when certain classes were responsible for the common good – with, from today’s point of view, boundless ignorance of the needs of the general public. The artefacts still visible today are due to this use of human lives – hundreds of thousands deaths in the building of the Chinese wall; Tens of thousands fatalities in the construction of the Panama Canal. After losing a committing moral, corporations exploit innovations nowadays without hesitation in order to let their own golden calf continue to grow. Even if you’re not the inventor of a user interface, you are uninhibited in suing your competitors, if they also become inspired by others. In the end they only act according to the law books – or better within its gaps. Every gap that lawyers uncover is used to create personal value outside the law. If the prosperity of some increases, this ALWAYS happens at the expense of others. However, since eventually everyone will be affected by the collapse of the whole, sooner or later there will be an institution that will take care of the fair distribution, because progress belongs to all.

Information needs a adequate remuneration

For centuries, publications were associated with high costs for the carrier material, the production and distribution of the novelty. The most important value creators had receded into the background – the creators of the information. Authors, illustrators, composers, directors and the many other creative people who invent, record, revise and finalize the content with great dedication. With an average circulation of seventeen copies as a self-publisher and one euro of earnings, no one can really speak of an adequate remuneration for the creative work. Now that the Sharing Economy has rolled over us, content providers need ways to make a living from their contents.

The new business models offer media solutions that make content readable online or downloadable.

  • Subscription
    Subscribers have access to a protected area where all content can be used. In this case, the customer decides whether the content is worth a long-term commitment and regular payments – e.g. Soundview. The provider controls the content, prices and distribution, but potential users are excluded, no matter for what reason they do not want to subscribe.
  • Pay-per-view
    Customers obtain exactly the content they are interested in. Depending on the „value“ of the content, it can range from very small amounts for short news and reports to very large amounts for technical content – e.g. rakuten . In this case, users do not have to commit for a long term, but the prices per use are relatively high.
  • Metered Model
    A limited number of articles is available without registration as Freemium. After registration there will be more free content. When all contingents are exhausted, you have to subscribe, e.g. The New York Times. Similar to Freemium, this approach offers the opportunity to test the content over a longer period of time. Later, the users decide more sustainably for the offer based on their experiences.
  • Freemium
    Some content and brief information is available for free. The detailed articles require a subscription or payment per article – e.g. The Guardian. The quick access to the content attracts many users. Here, too, readers are more likely to subscribe, if they are satisfied with the content.
  • Donation model/ Voluntary payment
    Users decide individually when and what they want to pay or donate. Payment can be made prior to registration, when using the content or irregularly after a donation call – e.g. ProPublica. This type of payment has to prove itself for the time being. The non-binding nature of the agreement may lead to a faster switch from one platform to another – at least as far as payment is concerned.
  • Sponsoring model
    In this case, third parties, i.e. companies and/or interest groups bear the costs and thus sponsor the ongoing expenditures. The users get the content for free – e.g. Cocainenomics sponsored by Netflix. For the World Wide Web, this is the most natural variant, as the content is accessible to users free of charge. The extent to which sponsoring leads to disseminating manipulative opinions requires attentive observation by all users.

Creative people rarely earn money with the reproduction of their ideas (see top earners here). In the field of textbooks, where smaller editions are realized, publication is therefore only a means to the end to present oneself as an expert and at the same time to offer products and services that provide the required income. The products range from branded articles such as exclusive writing to kitchen tools to services, which include consulting, lectures and the platform provision. The publications are only intended to create attention in order to present the additional deliverables.

Bottom line: If in the future new contents are to be available, new ideas are required to ensure the existence of the creative content creators. The existing payment models are already used by the established media. That way the transition of the media giants from the „physical“ to the virtual world is accomplished. However, the real content creators need viable offerings that go beyond their additional product and service business. In order to still get new content tomorrow, the information itself needs to get an adequate remuneration.