Safe-Xchange: Bringing Artists and File Sharers Together

From Tom Jeffries, founder and CEO of Safe-Xchange:

“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 Catholic Church, concerned over the potential loss of its ability to control people’s knowledge of scripture, 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 with regards to the concept of intellectual property. 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.”

2 Comments Safe-Xchange: Bringing Artists and File Sharers Together

  1. AvatarDonsan

    It’s very cute to want to bing the 2 sides together but I’m however afraid that it won’t work – the 2 differences between these 2 sides are way to big and the notion that these parts can talk to each other as equal partners a joke.

    We know that the content industry is abusing copyright and has done so for years – All you’ve to do is to look at the Constitution and compare the intentions of the founding fathers to what has become of copyright – The content industry is like a cancer – It spreads and ultimately kills the body – that is the community as a whole – This cancer not only effects the USA but even free and democratic countries in Europe and other places in the world – like Australia and New Zealand – The content industry like the American weapon industry have powerful political allies – for example the current vice president Joe Biden – What allies does the man in the street possible have? – A few net activists – some few voices crying out in a deserted dessert – that’s all

    So Michael – there is no way that these sides ever are going to meet halfway and a compromise could be achieved. – The battle is way unequal – It doesn’t help either that those who have the possibility to take the side of the people and the ability to voice their rights – like people as yourself – consider themselves as right holders and therefor are biased in this matter – Your article shows lack of perspective – We don’t need to make these parts make peace – That’s an impossibility – What we need to do instead is to seriously restrain the content industry and create laws which will keep them in place for a long time – Have any of you who’re writing intelligent articles in this matter ever considered The Universal Declaration Of Human Rights? – Maybe you should and carefully read article 19 which states: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

    So – I’m just asking why no one in the media – like the press TV and all that – EVER have mentioned that sharing files on a none commercial bases (seek – receive and impart information) is a human right and that copyright in it’s current form is a serious violation of human rights? – Do answer me if you can Michel because I’ve been wondering about this question for ages – Wile you’re at it do have a look at article 27:2 as well – which concerns the human rights of an author: “Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.” – Now tell me Michel – what kinda material interests results can possibly result from P2P files haring?

    So to make this short – The attempt and your effort to bring along these 2 sides is dead before it’s even born – My advice to you is – pick a side and stick to it – and if you’ve courage and conscious enough – then pick the side of those who’ve no voice – no organization – no funds – and no allies either in the political arena – the justice department or in the media

  2. AvatarMichel Bauwens

    Hi Donsan,

    Thanks for the contribution. At the P2P Foundation, we try to navigate some contradictory waters, i.e. both to be an organization that is squarely to the side of p2p dynamics, but also a pluralistic platform about ways to achieve it. This means we regularly publish items that we may not agree with (I’m speaking for myself here), but we recognize they are part of the debate and experimentation during this transition period.

    It’s important to know what the two sides are. In my view, they are the rights of citizens to cultural creation and sharing; but on the other, the ability of creators to make a living (including the same ability of those intermediaries who create real value around it). For me, the best thinking and solutions around this come from Philippe Aigrain, check out his name in our wiki search book for his commons-oriented solutions to the filesharing/creative incomes conundrum,

    I’m not an absolutist in terms of IP, as I can still see a justification to temporarily protect the human effort involved in creative projects, but agree that it should be very drastically reduced (a time period between five and fourteen seems justified). This does not mean sharing should be criminalized in any way, but people who profit commercially from other people’s work could be expected to share their proceeds with the original creators.


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