Safe-Xchange: Bringing Artists and File Sharers Together

Safe-Xchange: Bringing Artists and File Sharers Together

The goal of Safe-Xchange is to bring together two groups that have been split apart by misguided efforts by the record and movie industry. Musicians and filmmakers are told that that their income is being destroyed by people who share files, that file sharers are “worse than pirates”. At the same time, they are given a very small percentage of revenues from sales. People who share files are attacked by the major labels and studios, and may not understand that there are great ways to connect with the artists they like and to encourage them to keep producing wonderful music, film, and TV.

We want to change that. We want to bring those two groups together.

The situation is not unlike the conflict that arose when the printing press was invented. The authorities, concerned over the potential loss of their ability to control people’s knowledge, went so far as to put people to death for using the printing press. The legal maneuvers used by the record and music industry do not, so far, include death penalties, but they are intended to maintain control over the distribution of music and film. Intellectual property, once a way of protecting creativity, has become a way of protecting the people who want to profit from creativity as opposed to being creative themselves.

My first clue as to the real implications of file sharing came when Napster was at its height. We had a strict no-Napster rule in the house. One day I walked into my son’s room, and saw that he was using Napster. My question was simple- “Why?”. His answer revealed a lot. He told me that he bought more music because he had Napster, that he used Napster to choose music he liked, rather than having to rely on CD packaging and placement in stores.

That seemed to contradict my assumptions about intellectual property. I spent the first 15 years of my working life as a professional trumpet player, playing with everything from major symphony orchestras to rock bands, and recording with Pavarotti and Dave Brubeck. Then I moved into technology, and had suffered financial losses associated with people sharing digital copies of programs I had written.

But over the years I began to realize that current intellectual property laws don’t help the people doing the creative work at all. I don’t know enough about the different new approaches to intellectual property to be an advocate of any particular approach. However, I am an advocate of making sure that people who do the creating are the ones that are rewarded, rather than those who own the copyrights and patents.

As early as 2006 there were attempts to use P2P downloads to generate revenues, and many of those efforts have been successful. I’ve been involved with various efforts for the last 5 years. The biggest difficulty, other than the extreme antagonism from the RIAA and MPAA, has been connecting the artists with the file sharers in a way that makes sense for everybody. BitTorrent has run several campaigns for bands, including a recent one for Pretty Lights, that were successful, but they would have been much more successful if there was a direct way for the downloader to connect with the band.

That’s what Safe-Xchange is about. We built a downloadable app that worked on Windows and Mac desktops that provided music, video, ways to purchase products, ways to gather email addresses and do social networking, and even pre-roll and overlay ads to provide revenue to musicians. It was built using Adobe Flash, and because of the conflicts between Apple and Adobe our original goal of producing a mobile version is going to take a complete redesign and rebuild of the software.

We need to raise money to create the next version of our app, and we’re going to do that using crowd funding. We have a great list of bands and musicians, with more signing up all the time. Now we want to find ways to appeal to the P2P networks and the people who share files. Our goal is to bring those two groups together. If we can bring them together for the crowd funding the world will have moved one step in the right direction.

How will putting their music and video out on the P2P networks affect the artists? The current way the music and film industries are organized does not reward creativity. We feel very strongly that it is important to provide financial rewards to musicians and filmmakers. The app will allow them to sell downloads, CDs, DVDs, vinyl, and memorabilia directly to downloaders, as well as soliciting contributions, making social media connections and collecting email addresses, getting revenue from ads, and selling tickets to events. Safe-Xchange will share in the revenues- we couldn’t stay in business any other way.

At the same time, however, we are open to the changes happening in the world. Is there a way that the connection between artists and their fans can beome even more direct? Will Creative Commons licenses help? That remains to be seen, and we are looking forward to the new possibilities that are being created by the digital world.

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