When copies are super abundant, they become worthless.
When copies are super abundant, stuff which can’t be copied becomes scarce and valuable. When copies are free, you need to sell things which can not be copied.
Kevin Kelly’s recent post is a great summary of the ideas behind economic models which value the ease of copying in the digital world, as opposed to fearing it and imposing artificial scarcity instead. His thinking is very much inline with Mike Masnick’s writings on the economics of abundance at the Techdirt blog.
Kevin outlines eight “generatives”: authenticity, accessibility, immediacy, interpretation, personalization, patronage, embodiment, findability. (I’ve reordered them as I find “aaiippef” makes it a bit easier to remember them all.) He defines a “generative” as “a quality or attribute that must be generated, grown, cultivated, nurtured… [it] can not be copied, cloned, faked, replicated, counterfeited, or reproduced.”
This list is an excellent starting point for economic models in the digital world. These eight things cannot be copied. These are the things that people will be willing to pay for. These are the things that can be made to be more valuable through leveraging the abundance of copyable goods.
More importantly, I think, the types of economic models derived from this thinking allow us to take advantage of the abundance of digital information rather than fearing it. This sort of thinking allows us to view digital technology as a blessing rather than a curse.