With their newly developed software prototype called adore, the European Cooperative Cultural Commons Collection Society SCE presents a milestone on their journey to introduce an alternative to traditional copyright collecting societies across Europe. Created by a team of artists, developers and solution providers such as virtual things in Munich, and supported by European as well as crowd funding, adore takes the idea of the donation button to the next level, aiming to manage the collection and distribution of royalties to contributing artists in a fairer way. To set up the extensive infrastructure necessary to realise this project was a tremendous task, which virtual things developers took on relying on Tryton as the backend.
The culture of sharing music leaves their creators with less and less money in their pockets. In 2013, Düsseldorf-based Cultural Commons Collection Society SCE Ltd. decided to look into ways to provide contributing artists and authors with an alternative funding system with fairer conditions for artists than those established copyright collecting societies are offering.
Their idea: to refine and further develop the already established Donations button on media players which allows users to support their artists of choice, before further expanding it into a comprehensive royalty management infrastructure. The ultimate goal was to form an official, worldwide copyright collecting society. A bold vision that not only required broad funding but a comprehensive technical solution, able to handle the highly complex processes to manage artists, their work, users, usage and redistribution of royalties.
In 2014, backed by European regional funding programme EFRE and a hugely successful crowdfunding campaign, Cultural Commons Collection Society SCE commissioned virtual things, a provider of bespoke IT solutions based in Munich. The objective was to develop an open-source prototype of a backend application for integrated micro payments (IMP) that could distribute donations made by users listening to music on media players.
The main challenge of the project was to map out the structures and processes of traditional collecting societies and translate them to the digital age, ensuring a fair distribution of royalties not only for original work but also for remixes and cover versions that use existing copyrighted material. "For us, it was clear from the start we wanted to base the solution on Tryton", says Udo Spallek from virtual things. "We like the stability and reliability of the framework during all aspects of the development, testing and maintenance."
Given the immense complexity of programming an IMP application fit for collecting society tasks, the Munich developers went through an intense planning phase. During in-depth interviews with artists, producers and authors they learned about the processes managing the registration of creative work, reporting their usage as well as the collection and redistribution of royalties. After three months, a first version of the software was taken back to these experts to be developed further. This is where Tryton’s strengths came into play. "It allowed us to present an initial version early on, and make changes along the way without any hassle", says Korbinian Preisler from virtual things.
After an iterative and collaborative process over a year, virtual things and their project partners were able to present a prototype of the backend with the following functionalities (shortened):
- Artists can register themselves and their creative work
- Songs/creative content can be interconnected to indicate influences of remixes and the use of samples from other songs
- Song upload
- Make each song uniquely identifiable by a so-called audio fingerprint algorithm
- Algorithms can be different and are changeable
- Artists can stay solo or can be combined to bands, orchestras, special projects, etc.
For Music Lovers
- Definition of a monthly budget allocated to listening to the music
- Played songs for each user identified by an audio player plugin and promptly transmitted to a web service are stored as separate incidences of consumption.
- The budget is distributed monthly in equal parts between the consumed music songs, equalling the coin you toss in a busker’s hat. There is a dependency on the frequency of plays, with favourite songs receiving a bigger share than seldomly played
- When a song is made up of other songs, the influencing works receive a small share, too
"It was great to see convincing results of very challenging task after only 12 months", says Meik Michalke of Cultural Commons Collection Society SCE. "It definitely was the right decision to take the developers on board at a very early stage, so they could really understand what we are trying to achieve with adore."
With the EU-funded project successfully completed, Cultural Commons Collection Society SCE is currently awaiting the green light from the German Patent and Brand Agency (DPMA) for their new and alternative collecting society. It would be an opportunity for musicians who will not or cannot join traditional collecting societies to monetise their work, it’s mainly online and doesn’t necessitate giving up their way of licensing.
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