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The Google/ Copyright conundrum and opportunity

The world is definitely different because of Google. Never before has it been so clearly proven that the ability to find information can be as important as the information itself.

Google has got us questioning the horse and the cart illustration. Sometimes it is better to put up with lower quality information when it is soooo much easier to access.

Close but not close enough…

We have been so enthusiastic about the accessibility to information that Google delivers that it is only now, after years of using Google, that many of us are starting to see clearly that content is king… that still, even in the light of 30 millisecond search results, the thing found remains the draw card not the ability to find.

So yes, still, the horse comes before the cart.

The next problem is Google’s business model. A model that assumes that horses are a dime a dozen and it’s the cart that has all the value.

In this case I have taken a pretty determined position. If content is king, then copyright must prevail and this leaves the copyright owner in the position of power… by law and morally.

On this basis then, there is a giant gap of opportunity laying between Google on one hand who must rely on the content owners to give Google rights to copy (even to do basic indexes and display search results) and on the other side the content owners who are seeing their ability to make a livelihood strangled by Google’s advertising model and their business model that relies on the commoditization of information and copyright works.

A solution? How about this idea.

How about this? A copyright registry.

A system for copyright owners of anything; articles, photo’s, books, music or video. If a copyright owner wants to allow their works to be used in public, they can. But users must link their copies of content to the registry as in a conditional copyright arrangement.

The registry could integrate a fingerprinting technology that allows for embedded copyright attributions. A photo could be modified with copyright going to the original photographer and the subsequent digital artist. Copyright owners could check where their work is being used.

Ownership? Successful ownership models for something like this already exists. Consider Visa. A standalone company with an $800 million a year profit. But who owns it? The banks. Visa is owned by a large number of member banks. The service becomes self regulating in that it has to remain healthy as an important service to banks, but it can’t overshadow the banks and leverage its position against the banks because it’s against the owners interests.

If Visa was a search engine, it would be owned by all the big media companies as member companies. Visa would have it’s own search engine and advertising revenue from search results would come back to member companies.

The battle lines between Google and the media companies would be drawn across the definition of value content. Content where the publisher expects to be paid on one side, and everything else on the other side.

Ok. So how could this Visa for copyright work and what could it do?

  • It could not only register copyright works and track them but also be a new breed of search engine where the results are optimized around metadata about the content NOT the content itself. This would allow non text content like audio and video to be searched with the same ranking as everyday web pages are now.
  • Search results would be centred around web objects not web pages. This would allow non text content to establish it’s stature and importance along side text or quite rightly in some cases above text.
  • Copyright owners could then dictate monetization from point of search to content consumption.
  • With all content registered in one consortium owned place, the content itself becomes the driver of monetization not the brand or domain name. For example, the content owner of a film could open up the sale of  timestamp and screen locations within the video file. A restaurant made famous by a scene in a movie could buy advertising that points any viewer of that film to their web site. Links to that part of the film can be featured on the restaurants web site or even the bottle of wine being poured in a scene can be purchased by an internet winery… but all this activity is controlled by the copyright owner.
  • An open system of linking to, bidding or trading to and around content could be explored without the limitations and constraints of 3rd parties claiming and squabbling over content rights. All income is cleared and shared with the content owner.
  • Search and relevance engines would take on a new life. A person watching a home cooking show could be linked with a video segment showing the whole cooking process for the meal, or a listing of recent films or shows where the recipe was featured.
  • Then the flow-on’s start. Copy control and anti-piracy measures can be easily plugged in due to a much more manageable chain of ownership structure for content. Reliability goes up as does quality assurance. The person that most wants there content to look and sound good is the content owner.
  • Micropayment. The idea of paying a fraction of a cent for viewing some content will finally start to make more sense. Watching a classic old movie may cost 99 cents but seeing a segment of Casablanca as part of a tourism pitch by a travel company may cost nothing. Then again “play it again, Sam” may cost you a cent or two if you use it as part of your piano music teaching business.

So where to start?

Phew. This is getting to be a big post but you can’t come this far and not start to point at places to start. Recently I met with broadcast media specialist Peter Fox and started brainstorming this idea… maybe the National Archive, maybe APRA… but these are brands and organizations with goals and missions that are beyond the simple plain mandate to register, document, protect and exploit copyright by copyright owners.

So here goes…

The international copyright registry starting with the Federal Copyright Registry of Australia…. kind of like the Federal Reserve but for copyright and not currency! Also like the Federal Reserve it will be privately owned by a consortium of copyright owners representing all copyright owners.

It will be an introspective search engine first. With a browser tool that enables you as the copyright owner to populate the registry with items that are your copyright. Each item you select for registration will be linked to your registry account. Text, photos, music, video everything with a record of links to every place they occur.

Ideally a minimum of free space will be provided for small volume copyright owners, but the more space you use the more you pay as a registry member.

Membership will be a 5 year minimum to cover storage  charges with a two year grace before taking content off-line if there is no maintenance payment received.

Ideally a copy of your copyright material is stored in preference to just a referring link. In every case however, a metadata reference file is built… possibly with a thumbnail of the site, for web pages, a thumbnail of the video or photo or an audio placeholder for music or other sound you have copyrighted.

The notes for this idea are just swamping me at the moment so I am now looking at a seperate webpage or to break this idea up into sections… please standby for more..

End note re Google – Google has done lots of good with it’s power over its global index. The site you are looking at now is provided free by Google and for services like this I thank them. But the fact remains content remains the most important thing and people who help others find content should not dictate how the content owner makes their living.

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