To Share *and* To Profit

Roger Clarke

Principal, Xamax Consultancy Pty Ltd, Canberra

Chair, AEShareNet Limited

Visiting Professor, Baker & McKenzie Cyberspace Law & Policy Centre, University of N.S.W.

Visiting Fellow, Department of Computer Science, Australian National University

Prepared for presentation at a Debate on 'To Share or Not to Share', a plenary session of the Queensland TAFE `Shooting the Tube' Conference, Griffith Uni., 4 July 2003

Version of 27 June 2003

© Xamax Consultancy Pty Ltd, 2003

This document is at

The accompanying PowerPoint slides are at


A spectrum of opinion exists about the availability and appropriability of digital objects. Some people argue that "information wants to be free", and even proclaim that "copyright is dead". Corporations whose profits have hitherto been gained through the exploitation of mini-monopolies over content are fighting desperately to hold back the tide.

What's often overlooked is that there's a middle ground between the twin extremist positions of the ultra-orthodox socialists and the ultra-orthodox capitalists. That middle ground is called 'open content', and it's surprisingly fertile.

There are many different variants of 'open content'. Licensing conditions can be devised that protect the integrity of digital objects while making them widely available. Various limitations can be placed on reproduction, republishing and adaptation.

Enforceability is of course challenging. But that's not a feature of open content - it's an intrinsic feature of the digital era. The copyright supremacists are alienating their customers; whereas the use of open content licences recognises the mutual dependence of copyright-owners and the people who want access to their objects.

The new era is encouraging creativity in the ways in which revenue is raised. Some of the new ideas are based on the kinds of imaginary revenue-flows that gave us the implosion. Others involve payments by some licensees but not others. Another approach entirely is to generate revenue from complementary activities, and treat digital objects as 'give-aways', 'loss-leaders' and promotional devices. Musicians can earn more from gigs and trinket-sales than from record sales; and software developers can earn more from technical support and customisation services than from selling programs.

The P2P revolution, signified by Napster and KaZaA, represents the new laissez faire marketplace, one that denies originators and owners the ability to earn a reliable income-stream from their works. At the other extreme, reactionary designs for digital object marketspaces are clinging to the past, trying to build in technologies that constrain and control.

Intermediate market forms exist, which support a wide array of open content licence-types, and reflect the scope for both gratis access to digital objects ('To Share') and paid access to digital objects ('To Profit'). A working example of such a service is AEShareNet, which includes a spectrum of licence protocols that range from very open and gratis, to tightly controlled and expensive. That's where the future lies.


Barlow J.P. (1994) 'The Economy of Ideas: A framework for patents and copyrights in the Digital Age' Wired 2.03 (March 1994), at

Barlow J.P. (2000) 'The Next Economy Of Ideas: Will copyright survive the Napster bomb? Nope, but creativity will' Wired 8.10 (October 2000), at

Clarke R. & Dempsey G. (1999) 'Electronic Trading in Copyright Objects and Its Implications for Universities' Proc. Aust. EDUCAUSE'99 Conference, Sydney, 18-21 April 1999. Section 4 also appeared in the Australian Intellectual Property Law Bulletin 11, 8 (March 1999) 77-81, at

Clarke R. (1999a) '"Information Wants to be Free"' August 1999, at

Clarke R. (1999b) 'Freedom of Information? The Internet as Harbinger of the New Dark Ages', Proc. Conf. 'Freedom of Information and the Right to Know', Melbourne, 19-20 August 1999. Republished in First Monday 4, 11 (November 1999), at, and at

Clarke R., Dempsey G. & Higgs P. (2000) 'Key Design Issues in Marketspaces for Intellectual Property Rights' Proc. 13th International EC Conf., Bled, Slovenia, 19-21 June 2000, at

Clarke R. & Nees S. (2000) 'Technological Protections for Digital Copyright Objects' Proc. ECIS 2000 Conf., Vienna, 3-5 July 2000, pp. 745-752, at, with the PowerPoint slide presentation at

Clarke R. (2001a) 'Copyright in 'Waltzing Matilda'' May 2001, at

Clarke R. (2001b) 'Paradise Gained, Paradise Re-lost: How the Internet is being Changed from a Means of Liberation to a Tool of Authoritarianism' Mots Pluriels 18, August 2001, at

Clarke R. (2003) 'Copyright: The Spectrum of Content Licensing', June 2003, at

Scott B. (2001) 'Copyright in a Frictionless World: Toward a Rhetoric of Responsibility', First Monday 6, 9 (September 2001), at


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Created: 20 June 2003

Last Amended: 27 June 2003

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