Paying Artists and Writers Online – Figure 1

Paying Artists and Writers Online

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The circle above represents one account, a single RepliCount.

The ovals inside represent different services, which the owner can control through the owner’s dashboard, which every RepliCount has. The empty ovals (not filled in with a color) indicate services that exist as software on the server, but are currently turned off for this account.

The colors are arbitrary of course; we made the colors and shapes different to indicate that the various services can be very different from each other. In practice there may be hundreds of different services, mostly modular, available to every account on a particular server. But at any one time, a large majority of those services will be turned off — for the same reason that most of the genes in the human body are turned off at any one time. You want a large repertoire for special needs and purposes — but if they all acted at once, the result would be chaos.

Here we explain the different services we have labeled in the diagram above. (We repeat the labels verbatim, for those reading this page in one of the 34 non-English translations available, since the labels in the image above will not be seen by Google Translate.) The seven services we discuss for this example are:

(1) Accept payment – bankcards, PayPal, etc. These days almost anybody can get paid by bankcard (through 3rd party services), as well as by PayPal, etc. With RepliCounts, the company or other organization running the server is that third party; like the others, it will charge a fee for its service and pass on almost all the money to the payee, without revealing the credit-card number or other financial information. Since one server could have thousands of users who together have tens of thousands of accounts, it makes sense for the company running the server and offering the accounts to do considerable research on how to accept many different forms of payment, making the service available to all the accounts. However, any account owner can choose to block any payment options (or any countries) for any reason, and in that case the payment option will never be presented to those customers. Considerable work will be required to provide many payment methods and options, in many languages, with the necessary security and legal requirements. But for a low per-user cost, customers can potentially have their choice of dozens of different methods of payment, increasing business opportunities.

(2) Control the account owner’s dashboard. The account owner can turn almost any of the dozens or hundreds of services available to the account on or off, and set their options, through a control center or dashboard — which also provides quick visual feedback on how the account is doing (in sponsorships or other sales, for example), with detailed accounting reports on request.

(3) Control the public dashboard (if any). For mass-sponsorship sale of art or other content, end users will click on a smart URL — a public, clickable form of the account name. The click will open a minimal public dashboard, which will include a button to download or stream the art (e.g. a band’s song, or an image, article, or video), which that particular RepliCount delivers. The public dashboard will also provide the opportunity to purchase an additional sponsorship, regardless of what sponsorships already exist. There will likely be another button to get more information about the song or other content, and/or information about its popularity so far on this account. There may also be a “free sample” button, even though the art itself is free, assuming that a prepaid (sponsored) copy exists. (The sample will always be free even when all sponsorships are exhausted, or before any had been purchased. Also, artists may be creative with the sample itself, using it to provide a quick summary and pointer to what is especially important about the work. And the free sample will never use up a sponsored copy — and will not deliver a sponsor’s message, which is sometimes an ad, either.)

(4) Download content. This service controls downloading of music, videos, images, articles, or other content, depending on what this particular brand of reproducing accounts provides (for example some companies that offer RepliCounts may specialize in music, and might not offer downloading or streaming of video). The account owner will use this service to upload the content (for example, the band’s song), and to set options for available formats (for example, MP3).

Note that in RepliCounts, each song (or possibly album of songs) or other content will have its own account, which will circulate as a smart URL through its own, unique social networks. If the band wants to sell another song this way, it will use a separate account, at no extra cost, which could circulate in the same or different networks. In addition, the Download Content service will allow the band to upload informational or promotional content about the song, which will be presented to anyone who clicks the smart URL, regardless of sponsorship. This content may of course include other smart URLs or Web links (ordinary URLs), to other songs or content that the band is selling, or that it recommends. (As we will explain elsewhere, the smart URL points to a database record, which represents one RepliCount and its current status. The visitor who clicks a smart URL will see a dynamic Web page which shows the public dashboard for that account, which offers whatever options the account owner decided to include for the public.)

(5) Sponsorships. This replicating account may be used by a band, or other artist or content owner, to sell it’s work by mass sponsorship — meaning that almost anyone in the world can sponsor as many copies as that sponsor wants, making them totally free to end users. A sponsor can deliver his, her, or its message to everyone who uses a copy that sponsor paid for. There can be many sponsorships active at once. The Sponsorships account service, available through the dashboard, will hold, for each sponsorship currently active, the sponsor’s message, the number of copies remaining, and other information that the account owner may need to see. As there will be only one song, image, video, or other content file (or possibly a collection of files) per account, the pointer to the content itself will be in the “Download content” service, above, since it is the same for all sponsorships.

(6) Accounting; Business projections; Automatic payments of taxes, commissions, nonprofit tie-ins, etc. A RepliCount will by default store all transaction information, unless the owner asks it not to; the owner will set such options at the Accounting service of the owner’s dashboard. The owner can also ask for standard accounting reports, Web metrics, or other reports provided by the server, at any time — to the extent that they can be generated from the transaction list. These reports will be real-time, describing the account’s total activity up to the minute — or describing the activity for any date and time range in the past, if the account owner selects a range. Note that with the default policy we mentioned, an artist who doesn’t think about accounting until much later, and therefore didn’t set anything up, will still have access to all the account’s information. In fact, there may be no need to do any accounting setup in advance.

Note that the account can be set up to not only estimate sales and certain other taxes, but to actually pay them as sales (in this case, sponsorship sales) happen — relieving the artists from having to think much about setting aside part of their income for taxes. If the tax authorities are not ready to receive payment in this form (they would only need to get a RepliCount), then third parties could accept the money in escrow. If the artists did not set up such an arrangement until after sales had been made, they could check a box to have the account do the calculation on the past transactions, and then deduct a specified percentage extra from each future transaction until the back taxes were paid.

The same system will let artists pay commissions, for example if they have someone marketing their song for them. Also, it will let artists immediately pay an agreed charitable or other “cause” contribution from each sale — with a highly effective form of financial transparency. If the charities have any doubt that they are getting the money they should, or if they have a policy of always checking as a best practice, they can simply make a few retail test purchases and note the times and amounts. In the income report that the charity can generate any time by using its dashboard, each amount of income to the charity will be listed separately along with its time of arrival at the server. If this account does not show all the test purchases with the correct amounts, then the charity will know there is a problem that needs to be resolved. Note that those amounts are available immediately for the charity to use; it need not depend on receiving payment from the artists, or from the RepliCounts service. The charity can use the money in various ways, most obviously by visiting its owner’s dashboard to the account to mail the charity a paper check for the total amount (minus a small fee for sending the check).

Page updated 2009-12-19