Digital Media Project
A research initiative of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School
Alternative Compensation System Scenario


Patent Law
Media Exchange
Media in Asia
New Tools
K-12 Initiative


Research Team
Sign Up


The Alternative Compensation System Scenario envisions that users would be charged based on their use of digital media, and creators would be rewarded based on the popularity of their work.  The system has two basic premises: first, registration of a creative work, and second, a tax to generate funding for the initiative.

First, creators would register their work with a government agency to allow their work to be tracked.  Registration would tag the created work with a unique indicator that would monitor its transmission online.  Second, a tax would be applied to internet devices or services, like CD burners, MP3 players, or internet access.  The revenue generated by the tax would be redistributed among creators according to the popularity of their work online -- information which could be obtained from the tracking system.  The system would eliminate the current copyright regime and its many prohibitions about public performance, reproduction, and circumvention of encrypted content.

Prof. Terry Fisher's book, Promises to Keep (Stanford University Press, 2004), explores the possibility of such a system.  The Berkman Center convened a conference on December 5, 2003 to discuss Prof. Fisher's proposal and several other variations of Alternative Compensation Systems.

Read more:

Listen In

A 15-minute audio documentary of the Berkman Center's conference on Alternative Compensation Systems on December 5, 2003 is now available.  Stream it by clicking here.  Or download by clicking here.

Online ACS Resources

A threaded discussion about ACS on The Pho List -- a website dedicated to discourse about digital technology and its effect on the arts.

An outline of many of the key issues regarding ACS on Aaron Swartz's webpage.