Street Performer Protocol

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The Street Performer Protocol (SPP) is a way of encouraging the creation of creative works in the public domain or copylefted, described by the cryptographers John Kelsey and Bruce Schneier[1] of Counterpane Systems (although the underlying idea is much older). SPP assumes that current forms of copyright and business models of the creative industries will not work in the future, because of the ease of copying and distribution of digital information.

Under the SPP, the artist announces that when he receives a certain amount of money in escrow, he will release a work (book, music, software, etc.) into the public domain. Interested donors make their donations to a publisher, who keeps the donations in escrow, identified by their donors. If the artist releases the work on time, he and the publisher are paid from the escrow fund. If not, the publisher repays the donors, possibly with interest.

The SPP depends on the reputation of the artist, so that he is known for producing valued works and that he will live up to the terms of the agreement. It therefore assumes that the artists will have built up this reputation by releasing works into the public domain, such as previous chapters in a serial.

The publisher may act like a traditional publisher, by soliciting sample works and deciding which ones to support, or it may only serve as an escrow agent and not care about the quality of the works (like a vanity press).

In software, source code escrow is a publishing model that applies the SPP to the source code, which is eventually freed under an OSI- or Free Software Foundation-approved license.


[edit] History

The Street Performer Protocol is a natural extension of the much older idea of funding the production of written or creative works through agreements between groups of potential readers or users.

Mozart and Beethoven, among other composers, used subscriptions to premiere concerts and first print editions of their works. Unlike today's meaning of subscription, this meant that a fixed number of people had to sign up and pay some amount before the concert could take place or the printing press started.

"These three (piano) concertos K413-415 (...) formed an important milestone in his career, being the first in the series of great concertos that he wrote for Vienna, and the first to be published in a printed edition. Initially, however, he followed the usual practice of making them available in manuscript copies. Mozart advertised for subscribers in January 1783: "These three concertos, which can be performed with full orchestra including wind instruments, or only a quattro, that is with 2 violins, 1 viola and violoncello, will be available at the beginning of April to those who have subscribed for them (beautifully copied, and supervised by the composer himself)." Six months later, Mozart complained that it was taking a long time to secure enough subscribers. This was despite the fact that he had meanwhile scored a great success on two fronts:..."[2]

In 1970, Stephen Breyer argued for the importance of this model in The Uneasy Case for Copyright.[3]

The Street Performer Protocol was successfully used to release the source code and brand name of the Blender 3D animation program. After NaN Technologies BV went bankrupt in 2002, the copyright and trademark rights to Blender went to the newly created NaN Holding BV. The newly created Blender Foundation campaigned for donations to obtain the right to release the software as free and open source software software under the GNU General Public License. NaN Holding BV set the price tag at 100,000 Euros. More than 1,300 users became members and donated more than 50 Euros each, in addition to anonymous users, non-membership individual donations and companies. On October 13, 2002, Blender was released on the Internet as free/open source software.

[edit] Variations

Several platforms on the Internet allow authors to sell their works using the Street Performer Protocol in a slightly modified way. The threshold pledge system is often used to facilitate the collection of funds.

Variations of the SPP include the Rational Street Performer Protocol and the Wall Street Performer Protocol.

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