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The following was sent to me by Rob Bos. He disagrees with me. I included my response.

Good day;

In reading your recent rant, I can't help but think back to a Richard Stallman speech I heard this morning (a presentation at MIT, given with respect to copyright issues and the like) - one of the points that he consistently gives with regard to copyright issues relies on the "begging" model, as you so derisively call it - and really, I think that you are comparing two very different thing. I, too, refuse to "donate" cash to beggars on the street; it is encouraging them to live a life that is not really productive or even helpful; they're locked in through their own apathy and other circumstances in to a situation that really is not tenable.

Cartoonists, on the other hand, are public performers - as a general rule, I have no objection to public performers even on the street, and make a point of dropping in a dollar if I enjoy their music or antics or whatever.

Yet there's a fundamental difference - cartoonists and people who present their work on the Internet are not being obnoxious; you don't *have* to come to their site and read their work.

Furthermore, if they ask that you pay a dollar by donation, more power to them.

This is certainly not begging, and your associating two very different things is, imo, a smear on the dignity of decent cartoonists everywhere.

Anyhow, the relevant passage in the speech I listened to was interesting..

So if you love the work that you're reading or listening to, eventually you're going to say, "Why shouldn't I give these people a dollar? It's only a dollar. What's that? I won't even miss it." And people will start sending a dollar The good thing about this is that it makes copying the ally of the authors and musicians. When somebody e-mails a friend a copy, that friend might send a dollar, too. If you really love it, you might send a dollar more than once and that dollar is more than they're going to get today if you buy the book or buy the CD because they get a tiny fraction of the sale. The same publishers that are demanding total power over the public in the name of the authors and musicians are giving those authors and musicians the shaft all the time.

I recommend you read Courtney Love's article in "Salon" magazine, an article about pirates that plan to use musicians' work without paying them. These pirates are the record companies that pay musicians 4% of the sales figures, on the average. Of course, the very successful musicians have more clout. They get more than 4% of their large sales figures, which means that the great run of musicians who have a record contract get less than 4% of their small sales figures.

(apologies for going over the column count)

Thanks for listening. I believe there's nothing wrong with the model that Kevin Pease advocates, and furthermore, I think that giving a dollar every now and then is a sustainable model - of course, it'll take cultural acclimation and time, and an easy small-payment system. I think it doable.

Rob Bos - System Administration

Hi Rob,

You make some good points below, but I invite you to think about the comparisons you've made. Courtney Love is complaining that she doesn't make enough money? I'd like her to say that straight to the face of any "street performer" you'd like to nominate.

The worse case scenario of a beggars economy is probably the homeless guy on the street. The BEST CASE scenario is probably PBS. And PBS sucks. Sure, everyone SAYS that PBS is great, and that it delivers all this quality programming without corporate influence, blah blah blah, but come ON. No one watches it and it doesn't make any money and its pledge breaks are as annoying as hell and its not free from corporate influence.

Even street performers suffer the indignities of the pledge break equivalent, during the "passing the hat" routine. They work off of guilting you into giving them money, not from a fair exchange of product and compensation that people seem to believe. Sure, some people are happy to give money, but the truth is, few people truely respect a beggar. They pity him.

Yes yes, it's very easy to say the record labels cheat performers out of their fair share of the profits, but I don't see Courtney Love giving it up and performing on the street quite yet. They may only pay 4%, but shit, she makes truckloads more money than I do. They deserve to rake it in--they're selling the product 10,000x better than she could! She can either keep 50% of door sales at the local $3 cover/100 capacity gin joint or 4% of 2,000,000 copies of CDs she didn't have to lift a finger to sell. If she thinks she knows a better way, then she should do it herself.

There's already an established internet beggars model in which the users have been freely giving donations directly to hard working individuals who give the product for free. It's called shareware. No one makes squat from it, so they invented "crippleware." Just wait and see what happens to your favorite comics if they rely on donations to pay their bandwidth costs and the regular charitable feelings of their readers doesn't quite cover it...

The only reason begging is working now is because it's new.

All I'm saying is "Wait six months."


Darren "Gav" Bleuel

Know Nukees: (an atomic comic)
Keenspot Comics: (a Spot that is Keen)

all right.. honestly, I think you're misrepresenting my argument, here.

It's entirely possible that, in a world where cartoonists and musicians are supported, a lot of the time, by voluntary donation, that harassment of the listener, soliciting for donations, could grow - I have faith that it won't, because people will get more annoyed with music that has embedded begging in it, or comic strips where the artist falls over themselves to

The example I gave below, Courtney Love, is one of an artist who has actually started her own record label, and has nothing to do with whether voluntary contributions would work: Stallman uses her to support the thesis that record companies can and do systemically screw over musicians, in the same way that newspaper syndicates have systemically screwed over cartoonists in the past. Musicians are dehumanized and assemblylined, as are cartoonists, by such models - you, as a cartoonist, would receive far less attention than you would otherwise, and have much less ability to express yourself.

Right now, musicians are receiving approximately nothing for their creative efforts as music is distributed over the Web; I remain convinced that an id3 element could be added, using a neutral, centralized billing system, to "give them a dollar" by pressing a button. It's technically possible, and I think it should be done, because with numbers, it could be done.

Right now, I am listening to Queen playing Bohemian Rhapsody. There are many seperate instances where I have wished I could express my appreciation, and paying only a dollar to these artists, I would feel a lot better. Given that the artist would only get a dollar from a full CD of music, I feel that this would work quite well. I am perfectly willing to occasionally click on the button to give the artist a dollar.

In the case of webcomics, I believe that tastefully soliciting for donations is not all that bad a thing.

The "already-established" beggar's model, so-called "share"ware, fails, in my opinion, mainly because the software was, by and large, completely useless, and because giving money to the developers of the software really would not accomplish a heck of a lot. I happen to be an advocate of free software, where the payment happens in the form of other software, given to you as freely as you gave it.

It's entirely possible that webcomics, depending on donations to meet their bills, will become obnoxious in their requests for cash: however, it's really their decision. I can't find it in my heart to pity someone providing a service that no one *has* to pay any attention to. If they want to take it fully commercial and sell five dollar a month subscriptions, they can do that. If they want to put in a system where Paypal lets readers give something back for the gift they received.. so be it. Sluggy Freelance, for instance, is good enough that people have been *demanding* to be allowed to give Pete money. :) His strip is well worth it.

By and large, I think that being able to donate is a good thing.

You seem to think that this will become more and more central and that webcomics as a general rule will suffer because of active solicitations for donations, that because of the "begging", artists will feel that they deserve to be paid for their work and not produce quality artwork.

I don't believe this is the case.. your own motivations for putting up Nukees are a complete mystery to me, and I'm sure they don't have much to do with soliciting donations.

The other way I interpret what you are saying is that the "begging" model is not a sustainable one, and that it should be ignored in favour of an upcoming, more reasonable model. If you have a suggestion, I'm sure people are willing to hear it. In the meantime, other people are trying new models that might, with time, have a real shot at working. I think they deserve the chance to prove if they can work: annoying or not.

I think "wait six years" or "wait ten years" would be a reasonable piece of advice.. your idea that I "wait six months" is reasonable as well.. but it'll take time for the idea to mature and get a real shot.

It's got to be better than banner ads. Sponsorship is another wonderfully interesting way of paying for bandwidth costs.. and I'm sure that other people will come up with more and more innovative ways to handle things.

There is a fact, though.. in ten years, there will have to be some mechanism in place for people to benefit, however indirectly, from certain kinds of creative materials: music, webcomics, maybe even porn or equally ludicrous things. A generic backend that lets us anonymously donate a dollar to the person who made said things might just be reasonably sustainable. We'll see, I suppose.

Sorry I took so long to respond,