The music industry's crisis response to the Internet has been the primary driver of U.S. copyright policy for over a decade. The core institutional response has been to increase the scope of copyright and the use of litigation, prosecution, and technical control mechanisms for its enforcement. The assumption driving these efforts has been that without heavily-enforced copyright, artists will not be able to make a living from their art. Throughout this period artists have been experimenting with approaches that do not rely on technological or legal enforcement, but on constructing web-based business models that engage fans and rely on voluntary compliance and payment mechanisms. Anecdotal reports of such efforts have occasionally surfaced in the media. Here we present the first extensive sales-data evidence, gleaned from hundreds of thousands of online voluntary transactions, from three web-based efforts over a period of several years. This Article examines the effectiveness of these voluntary models as compared to the baseline-forcing system advocated by the industry and adopted and enforced by Congress and successive U.S. administrations over the past fifteen years. Platforms for artist-fan cooperation are complex and dynamic systems, sensitive to a variety of design factors that can either increase participation and prosocial behavior or dampen participation and enable anti-social behavior. In addition to providing substantial evidence for copyright policy, our study reports field observations of the design characteristics that support cooperation. A growing literature experimentally and theoretically explores prosocial behavior that significantly and systematically refutes the self-interest hypothesis characterizing most rational actor modeling. This literature has not yet been translated into a design approach aimed specifically at designing systems of cooperation. Building on experimental and theoretical literature in diverse fields of behavioral sciences, we synthesize a series of design levers that should improve the degree to which individuals cooperate. We then specify how these design levers might be translated into specific user interface features, describe the ways in which these design levers have been utilized in the sites under study, and present hypotheses about additional features that could improve cooperative outcomes. The Article contributes to the Internet copyright policy debates by offering empirical evidence showing that well-designed voluntary cooperation models compare favorably to more aggressive and widely criticized enforcement policies based on copyright law and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. It provides an empirical foundation for challenging the guiding assumptions of those policies.
Leah Belsky, Byron Kahr, Max Berkelhammer & Yochai Benkler,
Everything in Its Right Place: Social Cooperation and Artist Compensation,
Mich. Telecomm. & Tech. L. Rev.
Available at: https://repository.law.umich.edu/mttlr/vol17/iss1/1