Two weeks ago Flattr teamed up with ‘Bredbandsbolaget’, Sweden’s second biggest ISP (Internet Service Provider). They gave away 1000 Flattr accounts with 15E each on them to the first of their customers signing up for it. A short description of Flattr is that it’s a way of supporting content creators. It’s a play on the words ‘flat rate’ and ‘flatter’ with a button that you click to ‘like’ something and thereby give them some money. Easiest explanation is taking a look at the video. It’s a way of promoting and showing support for creativity that you appreciate.
So why is this kind of cooperation important for the future of the Internet?
The Internet as we know it today is starting to change. There is more pressure on ISPs to take responsibility for what their customers are doing. The ‘Mere Conduit’ principle (don’t blame the messenger) no longer seems to apply.
The US government doesn’t see a problem at all and thinks it’s good that the messengers (ISPs) start working together with the entertainment industry. One of the approaches the entertainment industry has imposed on ISPs is the ‘three strikes law‘ that has been passed in France, New Zealand and UK. It is putting a heavier responsibility on the ISPs to monitor their users to see what they’re doing and this sometimes goes very wrong. In Italy an ‘Internet kill act’ was proposed that would put demands on ISPs to censor big parts of the internet. Whenever someone discusses or uses copyrighted material they had not been allowed to talk about the ISPs would have to censure this. It would be a way ,“to reduce in silence those who express themselves on the Internet.”
Despite all these aspects of the deteriorating Internet there are some forces fighting against this. 40 countries signed a statement condemning the three strikes law. US is funding a censor-evading internet project and in the Netherlands they understand that Net Neutrality is important enough to create laws to maintain.
At ‘la Notte della Rete’ (that I wrote about earlier) Stallman described his proposal for supporting artists in a better way than our current system. One of his solutions was a system that works when “each player has a button you can push and it sends one euro anonymously to the artist”. This sounds very similar to how Flattr works. The Swedish ISP, Bredbandsbolaget, took an active stance for supporting artists through Flattr by their give-away of Flattr accounts. This initiative is something I think more ISPs should take. Supporting a new way of dealing with the current system. The alternative to ISPs not taking an active stance for more creativity and content on the net is defending themselves against veiled threats from the entertainment industry. The copyright system today is obviously broken. The entertainment industry will keep holding onto their old models of business, as long as they make a good profit, with the help of lobbying laws and regulations restricting creativity and freedom on the net.
I hope more ISPs decide to take an active stance in the support for a more free and creative Internet.