Culture and the Economy in the Internet Age

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* Book: Philippe Aigrain. Sharing: Culture and the Economy in the Internet Age. Amsterdam Univ. Pr., 2011



Sharing cultural works benefits authors, culture and public

In the past fifteen years, file sharing of digital cultural works between individuals has been at the center of a number of debates on the future of culture itself. Sharing provides a new view of the value of peer-to-peer sharing of digital works. Taking stock of what we have learnt about the cultural economy in recent years, Aigrain develops new economic models for rewarding creativity and for valuable cultural functions to remain sustainable.


"An in-depth exploration of digital culture and its dissemination, Sharing offers a counterpoint to the dominant view that file sharing is piracy. Instead, Philippe Aigrain looks at the benefits of file sharing, which allows unknown writers and artists to be appreciated more easily. Concentrating not only on the cultural enrichment caused by widely shared digital media, Sharing also discusses new financing models that would allow works to be shared freely by individuals without aim at profit. Aigrain carefully balances the needs to support and reward creative activity with a suitable respect for the cultural common good and proposes a new interpretation of the digital landscape." (



"What if we consider that sharing a digitally published work in one's possession with other individuals is a fundamental right? What if we break away from the idea of compensating the entertainment right holders for supposed harms resulting from sharing? What is a reasonable reward and financing model for sustaining a many-to-all cultural society? Philippe Aigrain — CEO of Sopinspace, which develops free software and provides commercial services for democratic processes and collaborative work over the Internet — discusses topics based on work conducted for "Sharing: Culture and the Economy in the Internet Age," forthcoming at Amsterdam Univ. Press in November 2011."


"Sharing provides a new view on the legitimacy of non-market sharing of digital works between individuals. It proposes and discusses a financing scheme for accompanying the growth of information, cultural, and expressive activity in the Internet age.

Sharing takes stock of recent economic knowledge on the culture economy. It provides an original perspective on financing schemes adapted to the enlarged set of contributors and more diverse attention to works that characterize digital culture when it can be freely shared by individuals." (



"Aigrain enlightens our understanding of the present while opening our minds to new, better ways of reaping the cultural and social benefits of the digital revolution."
Professor Juan Carlos De Martin - Faculty Director, NEXA Center for Internet & Society, Politecnico di Torino
"Philippe Aigrain (…) explains why - contrary to what is generally stated - non-commercial sharing of cultural works by individuals is a widely beneficial practice. Most importantly, he explores what can be

done in practice to sustain creativity in the new digital landscape."

Charles Nesson, Weld Professor of Law and Founder of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University
"More than an impassioned defense of the Creative Contribution, this essay is a must read for anyone interested in a viable economic structure adapted to the realities of the digital environment."
Milad Doueihi, Research Professor of Digital Cultures, Université Laval, Canada


(on a summary essay version, based on the original french book)

Philippe Aigrain:

"Sharing and the Creative Economy: Culture in the Internet Age is an extended and adapted English version of “Internet & Creation : how to recognize non-market exchanges over the internet while funding creation” published in French in October 2008 by InLibroVeritas.

Sharing and the Creative Economy will be published on-line under the CC-BY-NC-ND-UK-2.0 license in 3 parts. Presently only the first part is available : it consists of the first 3 chapters that define the overall principles on which the book is based as well as some empirical data supporting its approach. The reader will also find the full table of contents and appendixes. The next 2 parts will respectively provide the economic analysis of a sharing-compatible creative economy and the “how” of the proposed creative contribution collection, management and distribution.

Sharing and the Creative Economy: Culture in the Internet Age aims at giving a contemporary implementation to the rights defined in article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, whose 60th birthday we just celebrated. Article 27 defines two complementary objectives : the right of each person to freely participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits; and the right of each person to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author. This article leaves entirely open the means by which these rights are to be implemented. However, the next article in the Declaration states: Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized.

On the information technology and Internet era, the fulfillment of these rights seems closer at hand than ever. Never was so great a number of people endowed with the means to produce, access and share cultural works, public expressions and knowledge. But both rights of article 27 are very poorly served. We let a small group of interests, and the way of thinking that they promote, unduly restrict the means by which we try to serve these rights. We pay lip service to article 27, but we deny it the concrete environment of realization that article 28 calls for.

Sharing and the Creative Economy: Culture in the Internet Age stresses a concrete meaning for both rights and discusses how they can be implemented together. It affirms the right for all individuals to share cultural works that have been published in digital form between themselves without profit, in a non-market sphere of exchanges. Where this sharing is stigmatized as piracy by some, the author describes it as a long recognized right that has now become possible to implement at a much greater scale. This is an object of enthusiasm, but calls for an an adapted framework of implementation. Meanwhile, at the end of a period where mass cultural industry have briefly dominated the distribution of cultural works, the material interests of artists and producers of knowledge at large are very poorly served. The rights that were defined for their benefit have now been captured by a few large corporations who maximize their profit on each work by limiting the number of works that will in practice be exposed to the attention of the public. As such limitation is almost impossible to preserve in the internet age, they intend to turn the Internet into something else, a new channel for centrally controlled distribution of consumer works. They will of course fail, but much harm can be done in the process of this failure.

Sharing and the Creative Economy: Culture in the Internet Age defines a complete framework for putting in place a mechanism to give us all the best of the internet potential for culture.

This framework consists of:

  • A precise definition for the non-market sharing of digitally published works that it proposes to recognize. The precise definition aims at installing a synergy with the channels that provide the greatest part of remuneration to creation.
  • Putting in place a creative contribution that will be paid by all internet broadband subscribers. A framework is proposed on how to define the amount of this fee. * Its product would be used half for the remuneration of works that have been shared over the Internet, and half for the funding of the production of works and the creation of an environment for their dissemination and quality recognition by all. The Internet-based source of funding and remuneration will target all Internet native media as much as media that have been transferred to the Internet. A specific attention is given to works that are already voluntarily shared.

Sharing and the Creative Economy: Culture in the Internet Age discusses all aspects of the overall proposal:

  • Its legal basis as a licensing to end-users (in contrast to other proposals of licensing catalogs to distributors or ISPs)
  • The setting and evolution of the creative contribution
  • How the economy of the production of works can remain balanced and grow, including for works such as movies
  • The governance of the distribution of the remuneration and of the funding to creation
  • International aspects in situations where the proposal would be implemented initially only in some parts of the world
  • A non-intrusive (in privacy) usage observation for the remuneration, based on the a large panel of voluntary Internet users and statistical techniques to make it resistant to fraud and efficient to measure the usage of works of lower (but still deserving) popularity
  • Paths towards putting in place the proposal.

A key element in the book proposal is to install a situation where contributors to creation and users of works work together for a common good: culture and its sharing by all. The creative contribution is not just a beautiful name for a flat-rate fee. It is a motto for bringing together the two sides of article 27 of UHDR, in a world where they can no longer be separated. This was the approach proposed in the Paris Accord of 2006, and every reader can now act to turn it into a reality."

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