Flattr: Pirate Bay Gone Legit Or An Attempt To Flattr The Courts?

Posted by | Feb. 23, 2010 | 4,014 views

Peter Sunde, one of the founders and former spokesperson of BitTorrent site The Pirate Bay, recently debuted a new venture…one that will actually make content owners money instead of bleeding them dry. The project is in the form of a service, called Flattr (get it, like flattering?) that aims to generate cash from a monthly subscription service, offering content consumers the chance to ‘show some love’ to their favorite online sites via a ‘flattr’ button, as well as paying them.

This button works similarly to how social content discovery sites like Digg, StumbleUpon and Reddit work, but it would be less focused on news and moreso on music and film content (we think…the site simply claims, “We aim to make people share money on the internet”).

From what we can understand so far, the system deals with micropayments; all the money donated from users each month is collected and doled out by the amount of times a site or artist was ‘flattr’ed. Minimum monthly fee for subscribers is €2, and that money is divided up evenly by the amount of sites they ‘flattr’. This way members that want to reward a band or an author or site they enjoyed can do so their own way. So think of it like Digg plus Google Adsense.

Take for example, if a user puts in €5 a month and ‘flattr’s 30 sites in one month, 15 cents goes to each site (after 10% commission). Sure that can add up but niche artists certainly won’t be getting any hefty pay days. Most likely it will conjure up a long-tail syndrome; popular sites that many visit will snowball and get the largest slice of cake (like in the site’s video example) and a few fluke indie/viral hits will make a profit. This hardly means niche bands and sites will get their due, and isn’t that who we’re really rooting for?

And as for the ‘button’ culture of Reddit and Digg, its fake “props” brings news and the odd viral sensation to the niche online community that is interested in collective intelligence (or in this case collective intrigue or hilarity)…with music/film it’ll be an even more niche community. Especially with music, rabid fangirls can spam sites to help get favor for their rockstar of the month, or elitism can set in with just how ‘mainstream’ fans want their bands and…it just gets messy.

Now the name itself is obviously in the vein of other social content sharing sites like Flickr and Tumblr…but why have they been so successful? Not because of the catchy, cutesy name, but because they’re free. Also sites like Digg and Reddit are successful because they’re extremely open-ended and a majority of the most popular ‘read’ and ‘dug’ and ‘stumbled’ stories are news stories and silly viral sensations…not exactly premium content worth donating money to.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s a very noble cause but given Sunde’s credentials of setting up and running the most successful illegal file-sharing site, the transition will be a bit shaky. Hypebot said it best that his vision is “encouraging users to donate money to many of the same rights holders that he once helped them grab content from”.

The cynic in me says Flattr seems to be a thinly veiled attempt to try and reverse what The Pirate Bay popularized, and they’re playing nice to seem more legit. It’s still taking a commission off of artists getting paid…and the few consumers that really do want to support artists usually do so by buying MP3s and seeing them live. Also, having a user willingly hand over financial information to a company related to one that has been under criminal investigation for ‘aiding copyright theft’…I simply can’t see that happening. Just because the brand is popular doesn’t mean people automatically trust it. That’s like entertaining the idea of paying a Crip to be your personal bodyguard. This would make much more sense if there were a trusted service behind it, like Paypal.

The timing of it also seems to be a bit suspicious. There might be interest in the service because of Sunde’s célèbre but I can’t see it lasting longer than the appeal process…which coincidentally has been timed for ‘early 2010’.

Currently in private beta, Flattr is due to properly launch at the end of March 2010. There hasn’t been any news of who has signed up yet but it’ll be interesting to see who takes the bait and wants to give it a go. It’s only then that we can really gauge which direction Flattr will be going, it still seems a bit too vague.

Not to be entirely pessimistic though, Sunde does have good intentions, an article from the BBC claimed he “hoped it proved popular among the vast number of niche sites run by passionate amateurs that have a small, dedicated audience but which struggle to cover their operating costs”. It is a very innovative idea, placing a monetary value to the already popular social discovery network could greatly benefit content creators, but for it to be successful the user base has to be significant.

Who knows though, if the service draws in enough users it could become the foundation for a successful micropayment system and radically change content creation on the Internet. That however is instilling a lot of faith that people will become enthusiastic about paying for online content, and as sites like Sunde’s The Pirate Bay proved, not many do.

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Posted by on Feb 23 2010. Filed under featured, Gadget & Services. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

8 Comments for “Flattr: Pirate Bay Gone Legit Or An Attempt To Flattr The Courts?”

  1. Pio

    @Fred Dewey

    Hmm, that’s interesting. However there are a few key differences. Kachingle distributes your contribution based on page views on the sites that you “like”. This brings up some problems in my eyes:
    First of all, am I comfortable with this service monitoring my web use? Basically when i like a page with Kachingle, I give them permission to see whenever I visit that page..
    Second, there will undoubtedly be some content on pages i “like” that i don’t like! In many cases, this is no big deal, but if I for example frequent a site that showcases content from many different creators, I would probably like to choose which of those creators I want to support. Kaching doesn’t make this possible.

    With regards to these aspects, Flattr is a much better solution! It also seems that Kachingle is lacking the promotion know-how to really catch on (the intro video was a Powerpoint screencast with spell-check lines under the brand name!). It’s important to know that similar solutions exist, though, so thanks for letting us know :)

  2. From what we can understand so far, the system deals with micropayments; all the money donated from users each month is collected and doled out by the amount of times a site or artist was ‘flattr’ed. Minimum monthly fee for subscribers is €2, and that money is divided up evenly by the amount of sites they ‘flattr’. This way members that want to reward a band or an author or site they enjoyed can do so their own way. So think of it like Digg plus Google Adsense.
    Somethings gotta GIVE !

  3. Christian

    My understanding isn’t that content gets put behind a flattr-centralized paywall, but rather that the content is free, and if you choose to click the flattr button, you give x% of the $y you already payed into the flattr pool.

    It’s just a model that reverses the proprietary one (aka, DON’T SHOW PEOPLE MY STUFF. I DON’T MAKE MONEY WHEN YOU SHOW PEOPLE MY STUFF). Instead, sharing is good both as advertisement and as revenue generation. To paraphrase some Doctorow, piracy isn’t the biggest obstacle of the artist. The biggest obstacle is obscurity. Democratized micropayments try to harmonize the remedy for both problems into one. Get your work out there as much as possible, and get money at the same time.

    That’s my feeling, anyway.

  4. Bob

    “So Long as content owners realize that people want what they want when they want.”

    It doesn’t work like this in life and one day you will realize it, spoiled, freetard kid.

  5. Fred Dewey

    The inventor and patent holder of this idea, Cynthia Typaldos, has this exact model up and running and in full production already: It is called http://www.Kachingle.com . Check it out.

    No need to wait and see if flattr’s intentions are good or evil.

  6. Burt

    It’s going to be used to prove that sharing is the future. Musical groups, indie film-makers, etc, can torrent their stuff and include a shortcut to their website that include a flattr button. TPB+flattr will become One More Legitimate Use for bittorrent and filesharing.

  7. Lucas

    Pirates are forever

  8. Steve Sikora

    Seems like a good idea. So Long as content owners realize that people want what they want when they want.And not old crap.This could be a golden goose for them. Price stuff fairlyand give people what they want and people will buy.Funny, everyone would be happy.
    But Alas, this really is only a dream, content owners will screw it up. Sigh, I guess I will be pirating for a long time to come. Do I have any choice?

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