Famous Last Words: A Business Proposal -- WIPCO
A great tragedy of modern business was to allow the World Wide Web to become advertising-drive rather than information-driven. Users should pay for the incredibly valuable information and entertainment it provides.
I receive The Wall Street Journal in hard copy daily. As a result, I am eligible to get the publication online for $39 a year. Included in that subscription is access to the Dow Jones-Reuters-Factiva archive—a monumental collection of data going back 10 years from a thousand media sources in 118 countries and 22 languages. Type in a subject, and Factiva gives you dozens of articles—the publications in which they appeared, the date, the headline, the first few lines of the story and the number of words. Click on the article, and it comes up on your computer screen. At the same time, your credit card automatically is hit for $3.95.
However, a skilled researcher can use Factiva (and Lexis-Nexis, for that matter) simply as wiring diagrams by going directly to the Web site of the publication listed and downloading the article for free. Magazine archives that I have looted include Business Week, Business 2.0, CNN/Money, E-Commerce Times, Fast Company, Forbes, Fortune, Inc., The Industry Standard, Red Herring, Salon.com, SmartMoney, Wired and ZD Net.
As a researcher, I love all this free information and the incredible convenience of not having to leave my home. I also love reading seven newspapers a day on the Internet for free.
As an author, I am outraged that all this reportage is free for the swiping and that these superb writers and their publications are being royally screwed out of royalties.
Quite simply, these articles are not worth $3 to $4 each. For that kind of dough, a researcher can take the free Factiva/Lexis-Nexis wiring diagram to the library, retrieve the back issues and make photocopies. To a researcher, each article—or a daily visit to The New York Times—might be worth 5 cents to 25 cents in terms of value received and time saved. But it would be totally impractical to bill a researcher 5 cents or 25 cents. Or would it?
The ASCAP Model
Back in 1914, the American Society of Composers, Artists and Publishers (ASCAP) devised a system that enables composers and lyricists to collect a small royalty every time a song is performed in public—on radio and TV, in concerts, malls, nightclubs, etc.
Why should songwriters get money when their work is used while the creators and publishers of non-musical intellectual property get nothing—or just a few bucks from researchers too stupid or lazy to go to the source?
The WIPCO Model
I propose the formation of the Web Intellectual Property Collection Organization (WIPCO)—a nonprofit association made up of authors and publishers whose material is available on the Internet and who feel they deserve to be paid in perpetuity for their work just as their colleagues in the music industry are. The ASCAP scenario is a nightmare compared to WIPCO. Imagine trying to collect a royalty for every song played by 11,500 commercial radio stations; 11,000 cable systems; 2,300 colleges and universities; 1,000 symphony orchestras; 5,700 concert presenters; 2,000 non-commercial broadcasters as well as the TV networks; and then getting that royalty to the copyright owner. In that sense, ASCAP is amazing!
In terms of WIPCO, everything is electronic and trackable. Royalties instantly can be collected and distributed. What is required is for publishers to join the organization, register the work and the royalty deal. For the researcher or newspaper reader, WIPCO would work like E-ZPass, a system that allows motorists to go through tolls without paying cash each time. When you sign up for E-ZPass, you give a credit card account number and the account is charged, say, $100. Every time you use a bridge, tunnel or toll road, the toll is deducted from your account. When the account gets low, E-ZPass automatically charges another $100. Same thing with WIPCO; it would take 20 percent of all royalties collected for expenses.
With that in mind, I bought www.wipco.org with the intention of handing it over gratis to anyone who wants to get the ball rolling. American writers and publishers deserve better.
Denny Hatch is a freelance direct marketing consultant and copywriter. He is the author of three marketing books and three published novels. You are invited to visit him at www.dennyhatch.com, or contact him via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.