For most of humanity, we’ve been limited by physics, so goods (food, land) have been scarce. Thanks to computers and the Internet, digital goods aren’t, or don’t have to be. For the cost of a high-end kitchen appliance, you could distribute a piece of digital media to everyone in the world with a smartphone and Internet access. Which, given the cost to produce digital goods, is effectively free. Unfortunately we’re held back by our antiquated copyright systems and can’t take advantage of this huge advancement in technology, and for good reason - we need to incentivize the creation of those digital goods, and the creators need to eat and pay rent. And yeah, the really good creators get caviar and cars and estates.
Even though digital goods are post-scarcity, we don’t treat them as such. We criminalize any that want to make the information free, with the pirate bay and libgen creators getting fines and jail time. But it’s high time we step back and realize the situation we find ourselves in, and stop hitting ourselves in the face of progress. Because the distribution of digital goods is post scarcity, we can develop a universal basic income for digital goods without having to solve the problem that physical goods are still scarce.
We need to incentivize creators of digital goods, as the creation step is still quite labor intensive, but once it’s been created, it can be copied a near-infinite amount of times for free. Instead of copyright, I am proposing a new system, Copythrough, which aims to incentivize the creation of digital goods while acknowledging how revolutionary the Internet is.
Under Copythrough, users create an account and deposit money into it, which are converted into credits that are used to access and download digital goods registered with the system. Each digital good would have a set credit price that would be deducted from the user’s account when downloaded, and a portion of the credits used would be automatically transferred to the creator’s account. These credits would then be pooled, and UBI payments would be distributed to creators based on a universal basic income model at regular intervals.
The Copythrough system could incorporate both popularity-based and universal basic income-based payouts. This would ensure that all registered creators receive a baseline income, while still providing incentives for creators to produce popular and high-quality digital goods.
It is important to note that implementing this UBI model would require significant investment, coordination, and trust between users, creators, and the Copythrough system. It would need to have robust security to fight fraud and ensure fair distribution of funds, and the system would need to be transparent and accountable to build trust among users and creators.