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september 11, 2007:
what would negroponte’s $100 laptop initiative do for the future of music and media?

It looks like Nicholas Negroponte and his One Laptop per Child (OLPC) initiative will indeed succeed in giving everybody in Brazil, India, and Africa a fully functional, wirelessly connected $100 (or less!) computer. You may have not thought about it this way before, but just imagine another 250 million or more networked computers (a.k.a. digital copy machines) being given to people who have had no previous access to those large media vaults-in-the-sky that we Bit Torrenters have been taking for granted, and who may have never even heard of our traditional “western” copyright concepts before. What is likely to happen here, and how will the media sector suffer or benefit from this? But first and foremost – how will the creators of all that media content benefit from this? No matter how you look at this, we can clearly forget the unitbase “pay-per-copy” paradigm here – nobody in India or China will buy into this and few will be able to afford it even if they wanted to, meaning those illicit libraries of all-media-anytime will continue to grow even faster. More users, more bandwidth, more storage, and increasingly less control over devices and networks!


I personally believe that the only practical way we can remunerate the creators (never mind the middlemen, i.e., the publishers or the people formerly known as distributors) is indeed to offer all-in, flat-rate access to media content – starting with music. Those flat-fee-access libraries would need to be quite substantial, but lots of opportunities for smart up-selling could be built in as well – if you have a good reason to charge a premium, you will still get it since the user is already just a click away from it. And he knows you and you know him (remember that trustbased economy!) so despite the fact that, yes, your premium content will also be available for free somewhere out there in cyberspace, you can still make a sale here – provided the real and perceived value is there, and the value-benefits ratio is clean.