Internet Commerce in Visual Art

Start-up Offers a Software Based Brokering System to Enable Participants to Write Their own Licenses

October 31, Ewing, NJ  The Internet has huge potential capability as a portal into the world of museums, fine art, historic photography and the like.  To date, other than photo sharing systems like Flickr and Picasa, what can be seen of fine art is generally pictures that are so small in the context of ever larger and better displays as to provide for very frustrating experience.  The reason for this failure is the problem of intellectual property. 

This issue presents the first description of VisualArts Systems Inc, a start up with software that solves the intellectual property problem by letting museums, artists and photographers write their own licenses for commerce in the content on the internet.  It has the advantage of offering a path to sustainability to programs like Taiwan about which we wrote five issues ago (July 2008).

In our December 2008 issue we present a follow up to a concept that we outlined three years ago in rather vague form for the first time. David Hughes in his VisualArts Systems has since worked out these concepts to a stage of alpha test software and a business model that should unlock huge troves of visual content.  The system will encourage sharing by enabling the use of meta data that informs viewers of the social, intellectual and biographical ties behind the art and artist.  The business model exploits the edge centered strengths of the Internet via software which will not be charged for but which enables people to accession their content into the commerce system that the start-up provides.  The goal is both sharing and commerce.  VSI will take a percentage share of the commerce it enables.

The most critical innovation is that VSI solves the problem of intellectual property rights (IPR) - something that museums and other content owners have been unable to solve.  It does this via its software called the artFactory where, through use of an interview wizard, the software enables the owner of the content to write his or her own license describing very precisely what type of commerce under what conditions may be undertaken with representations of the art involved.

Our interview with the venture’s three principals describes in detail the creation of artListings and artCards that are designed to spread awareness of the objects and facilitated commerce in artPack that are the high resolution versions used to enable delivery of museum quality prints suitable for display in homes and offices.  The software is built by use of museum digital standards designed to make it attractive to museums that are digitizing their collections but have been unable to build viable commerce models.

The business model is intended to encourage content owners to participate under terms that they can control and terms that can give them a commercial presence on the global internet for their content that VSI enables them to sell and from which they can get a cash flow that can help sustain their operations.  Our interview explains all the components of this business model in detail and alerts readers to the enormous variety of content not only in museums but also in archives of well-known photographers that this approach can unlock.  The implications in unlocking latent content both for commerce and education Internet users are highly significant.

Symposium Discussion September 15 - October 10

Smart Grids and Green IT

List members discuss the feasibility of smart energy grids.  Paul Budde asserts that the utility industry will need to undergo changes not dissimilar to those that happened in the PC and Comms revolutions over the past 40 years. Smart Grids could offer energy and efficiency savings between 15% and 25%.

Budde points out that The problem is that currently collaboration is not considered and discussed in any detail between the two industries. Both are building new intelligent infrastructure, they both pass the same houses yet there seems to be little or no communication, there is no political understanding that could assist in promoting collaboration. Both will also will face the same labor shortages in building all of that infrastructure, yet it looks like they will simply build their own.

Bill St Arnaud cautions: Integrating next generation telecoms networks with the electrical grid is a very tough proposition. A smart grid does not require an advanced network and can easily work with low speed Zigbee wireless devices.

Kenneth Miller adds I struggle with the concept of power market signals or demand signals to pass through an open network. Certainly passing signals is possible, but the delivery reliability and response times are key to grid reliability and demand response. Would such a network deliver what would be required? Would the utility be responsible if they send out a signal to reduce demand and it didn't? If it didn't respond predictably it could not be worked into the real time model and would be disregarded.

Bill changes focus to mention ISO 14064 certification: We have been hearing a lot lately about the benefits of ICT to reducing Green House Gas (GHG) emissions. Several studies indicate that ICT may reduce GHG emissions by as much as 15%.

At the same time many industries have announced plans to be carbon neutral such as Dell, Cisco, Google etc. Academia and government are also moving in this direction with voluntary and, in some cases, mandatory carbon neutrality targets.

Ghana and Mobile ICT 

Today, Ghana Telecom is aiming at providing broadband services through the fixed network solutions. While the people in town (55,000 population) wish to be connected, the price is still not affordable to most of the people. Our wireless solution to the last mile may be more affordable and our outreach to the community (chief, schools, university, police training schools, hospitals, healthcare clinic, hotels biz, district assembly) has its track record.

Could it be an ideal situation when we provide the wireless access while partnering with the telco to deploy its broadband fixed network connection? We could serve as the change and ICT field agents to accelerate the adoption of the Internet. As suggested in the report from the Hill, there shall be investment and funding towards advocating and marketing such effort. Rather than thinking it as the marketing, in our case, we have been doing the educating and knowledge sharing as a way to anticipate the current development: from telco, it comes from technology evolution, from us as social development and economy empowerment, we are preparing the HUMAN NETWORKs to be ready for this day to come.

Do you all see us with a chance to do this? Could we replicate this process (wireless for the semi rural to rural areas while providing services for the telco to get people onto broadband to ignite the economic engine) in a pan-Africa scale so that 450+ million people in the rural areas could also get the access which is also the goal of Wireless Africa consortium?  [snip]

Coluccio: I'm wondering if Joy Tang's model in Ghana, which is basically grassroots and WiFi-based, can leverage these and other financial-banking innovations? Would banks in fact work with her to instantiate the necessary security hooks to make financial institutions feel more comfortable, to the point where WiFi-based access can support micro-payment types of transactions? Joy?

Pimentel: M-Pesa and Kiva are perfect for these kinds of transactions. What we have been asked to look into by international money remittance financial institutions is money transfer via voice biometric. Now that Western Union and Money Gram, and so on want to move in this space leveraging voice biometric to positively authenticate, identify and authorize mobile users is critical.

IPv4 as the
Internet’s Medium of Exchange

A discussion of November’s interview.

The essence of Tom Vest’s proposition:  The network engineers who run the Internet generally do not usually think of it as an economic system.  If the Functioning of the Internet System is similar to the Global Monetary System how does that Affect Policy Making?

Vest: Given the fact that European Monetary Union involved multiple sovereign entities, and a move away from everybody's native MoE to one that was equally alien to all of them, it's provides one plausible (albeit much simpler) model for how network operators could move from IPv4 to IPv6. Simpler, because instead of +/- 20 sovereign institutions, in the Internet case we're talking about 12-15 thousand independently managed routing domains.

In the course of my background research I've come across dozens of carefully reasoned journal and business magazine articles from the late 1980s - early 1990s that lay out specifically why why EMU is impossible and or doomed to certain failure (see attached -- one of my personal favorites). I started collecting these in order to compare the arguments to the kind of feedback I'm getting as I try to advocate for IPv6 migration with my colleagues in the network operations community.


Vest: Because the many and varied parties that believe, rightly or otherwise, legitimately or otherwise, that they benefit from the current arrangement are not likely to accept on faith that a future in which they have a dramatically different (and in all likelihood diminished) roles could be intrinsically better -

Goldstein: The political pejorative for that is "special interests".

Vest: No question there. But from an economic point of view, all interests are special interests. The trick is finding some way to align the interests in ways that lead to less bad things for fewer people now and more good things for more people later. The eternal problem is how to distinguish between less bad and more good, for who and how many, and how to convert that multidimensional spectrum into a credible and defensible time series -- i.e., how much pain (or gratification) now is justified by how much more/less tomorrow, and the day after...

Goldstein: Okay, there are special interests who want to migrate to IPv6 and preserve the unjustifiable brokenness of applications, simply because FTP was written that way (over NCP, not TCP/IP) in 1972 or so, and it must be treated as inerrant. Actually, the special interests are Cisco and the like who want to sell more expensive kit in order to build the parallel IPv6 network that the transition plan basically needs for a decade of coexistence. Big bucks, private benefit, public loss.


Vest: See here's where we disagree, and where (perhaps coincidentally) I also disagree with libertarian monetary theorists. MoEs that survive generally do so because, after emerging perhaps through purely Darwinian processes that any libertarian would love, they become conveniences, and ultimately "critical infrastructure" that everybody depends on.

The neolithic libertarians who invented the MoE didn't ask or invite future generations of money users to become dependent on their invention, and their intellectual heirs -- the private bankers that thrived in the 19th c. "Free Banking" periods in Scotland and the US, and more recently the CATO-financed researchers and promoters of the "Free Banking School" -- adopt the same attitude: it's mine, use it if you like, so long as it serves my interests, but don't expect me to take your own interests into account. In a pure world with no groups or group-level power structures, and perfect information, and zero transaction costs, maybe that attitude would prevail. In the real world, when something becomes widely perceived to be "critical infrastructure," it has passed beyond the "narrow playground" stage where such attitudes are benign or even defensible, IMO.

Goldstein: I'm not promoting it, btw, just noting that what I'm proposing (a simple tweak for the short term fix) is more libertarian than Leninist.

Vest: I understand, and to repeat am not accusing or assuming any particular political orientation on your part. It's an empirical question, I guess. If you are right, then I am wrong and IP addresses do not constitute the business ends of a MoE system that behaves the way that other MoE systems do. If you are right, then we have nothing to worry about. If you are right, then the fix is so simple and easy that even if I convince the whole world to follow my undeniably more difficult path, you preferred outcome will still prevail in the end.

If at least one of us is right, then I'll still like the Internet twenty years from now, so I win either way.  But I'm not convinced that your undeniably simpler solution will work (or even that I understand clearly what it is), so I'm going to persevere.


Fuller: Exactly. So why is migrating to ipv6 any better than having a large number of small IPv4 prefixes that front for large NATted networks? Either way, you have to carry thousands/millions of "PI" prefixes in the global routing system.

Vest: Because migrating to IPv6 doesn't permanently disenfranchise every aspiring entrepreneurial service provider that is unfortunate enough to try to start their business after IPv4 exhaustion.

In an all-IPv4 Internet with no clear IPv6 migration path, IPv4 is the ultimate infrastructure bottleneck. It will be just like the last-mile facilities access plant, only ubiquitous, omni-directional, and impossible to bypass.


A Distributed System for Commerce in Visual Art on the Internet

Start-up Offers a Software Based Brokering System to Enable Participants to Write Their own Licenses

The Goal is to Both Protect Content and Share it                p. 4
The Purpose of the artListing                                              p. 7
The Certificate of Authenticity and Personalization            p. 8
Security                                                                              p. 11
Resale of Derivative Art, Secondary Markets, and
Brokering Museums                                                             p. 12
Next Steps                                                                          p. 13
The Ernest Knee Collection                                                p. 16
Early Roll Out at an Actual Gallery                                     p. 18

Symposium Discussion September 15 - October 10

Smart Grids and Green IT                                                   p. 20

Zigbee Protocol                                                                                p. 22
ISO 14064 Certification (GHG and ICT)                                             p. 23
Back to Smart Grids                                                                         p. 25

Ghana and Mobile ICT                                                        p.30

IPv4 as the Internet’s Medium of Exchange                        p.33

Executive Summary                                                            p.50