Early attempts at implementing transcopyright (essentially, a system by which quote attribution is treated as a mechanism of remixing & is built-into the editing and publishing system with fees, the idea being that long discussion threads could become a kind of economy where tiny amounts of money are transferred) such as TokenWord failed because there was no community, and other systems that attempted to adopt some of the ideas of transcopyright didn’t go all-in and thus ended up falling back on their alternative revenue systems in lieu of actually explaining the mechanics of transcopyright to users. However, Medium seems like an almost ideal environment for a transcopyright-type system: long conversation threads emerge around long original posts, most posts aspire to something resembling “journalism proper” rather than the kind of blog-like or social-media-like content that dominates on Tumblr or similar, and many old-school publications have moved to Medium and integrated with its systems. Not only that, but Medium already has a licensing menu & complicated licensing mechanisms. In other words, if Medium were to build a mechanism for pasting highlights into a new post while making them link to the original context & hook that system into a default license that explicitly allows these highlighted sections to be put into a new post in exchange for redeemable credits, Medium would immediately have a transcopyright-style system (although they would need to hook into some sort of payment framework in order to allow people to put money in and take it out; probably, they’d have to set aside a bit of money for people to start off with, so that users wouldn’t need to pay something in first).

Ads don’t pay much at all. Any replacement for ad-supported systems would need to let people pay as much as ads would, and were that payment truly automatic many people would: we’re talking a fraction of a cent for hundreds of views. (I subscribe to Google Contributor, which basically turns Google’s own ad system into a micropayment system: I rarely see ads, but every site gets the kind of money it would if I saw every ad. The problem is that for certain ads, Contributor is disabled, and these are the most irritating ones, so I still have to use ad blockers on desktop — only sites I view on my phone end up going through Contributor in the end. However, if Google were to charge me $4 instead of $3 and properly block *all* the ads, I’d happily turn off ad blocker and pay the money.) The ad ecosystem wastes money by involving a bunch of third parties; direct automatic micropayments to all involved web hosts is better, because anybody calculating how much showing me an ad is worth to them is drastically overestimating: I’m never going to buy something by clicking through a pop-up ad because it’s insecure, so they’re never going to make that fraction of a cent off me that they paid the web host, and as soon as they realize how many people out there think the same way, ad impressions will be worth even less.

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Resident hypertext crank. Author of Big and Small Computing: Trajectories for the Future of Software. http://www.lord-enki.net

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