Social Sharecropping?

by on December 20, 2006 · 10 comments

You should check out Ed Felten’s excellent rebuttal of Nick Carr’s contention that sites like MySpace are “sharecropping” their users–enticing them to create valuable content which MySpace then profits from. Felten points out that users in fact get considerable value from their MySpace content. His conclusion:

The most interesting assumption Carr makes is that MySpace is capturing most of the value created by its users’ contributions. Isn’t it possible that MySpace’s profit is small, compared to the value that its users get from using the site?

Underlying all of this, perhaps, is a common but irrational discomfort with transactions where no cash changes hands. It’s the same discomfort we see in some weak critiques of open-source, which look at a free-market transaction involving copyright licenses and somehow see a telltale tinge of socialism, just because no cash changes hands in the transaction. MySpace makes a deal with its users. Based on the users’ behavior, they seem to like the deal.

As I’ve written before, markets don’t require money, and many non-market activities are perfectly compatible with a free, capitalistic society.

Mike at Techdirt has more.

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