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Street Performer Protocol

The Street Performer Protocol is a way of encouraging the creation of creative works and intellectual property in the public domain, described by the cryptographers John Kelsey and Bruce Schneier of Counterpane Systems (although the underlying idea is much older). It assumes that traditional forms of copyright and creative compensation will not work in the future, because of the ease of copying and distribution of digital information.

Under the SPP, the Artist announces that when he receives a certain amount of money in escrow[?], he will release a work (book, music, software, etc.) into the public domain. Interested Donors make their donations to a Publisher, who keeps the donations in escrow, identified by their donors. If the Artist releases the work on time, he and the Publisher are paid from the escrow fund. If not, the Publisher repays the Donors, possibly with interest.

The SPP depends on the reputation of the Artist, so that he is known for producing valued works and that he will live up to the terms of the agreement. It therefore assumes that the Artists will have built up this reputation by releasing works into the public domain, such as previous chapters in a serial.

The Publisher may act like a traditional publisher, by soliciting sample works and deciding which ones to support, or it may only serve as an escrow agent and not care about the quality of the works (like a vanity press[?]).

History of the Street Performer Protocol

The Street Performer Protocol is a natural extension of the much older idea of funding the production of written works through agreements between groups of potential readers or users. For example, then Professor Stephen Breyer argued that this model was important in his famous 1970 critique, The Uneasy Case for Copyright[?].

The Street Performer Protocol was successfully used to release the source code and brand name of the Blender 3D software. After NaN Technlogies BV went bankrupt in 2002, the intellectual property rights to Blender went to the newly created NaN Holding BV. The newly created Blender Foundation campaigned for donations to obtaining the right to release the software as open source under the GNU GPL. NaN Holding BV set the price tag at 100,000 Euro. More than 1,300 users became members and donated more than 50 Euros each, in addition to anonymous users, non-membership individual donations and companies. On October 13, 2002 Blender was released on the internet as open source.

Variations of the SPP includes the Rational Street Performer Protocol[?] and the Wall Street Performer Protocol[?].

See also the Ransom publishing model.


  1. Stephen Breyer, "The Uneasy Case for Copyright: A Study of Copyright in Books, Photocopies and Computer Programs", Harvard Law Review 84(2) 1970.
  2. John Kelsey & Bruce Schneier, The Street Performer Protocol and Digital Copyrights (http://www.firstmonday.dk/issues/issue4_6/kelsey/), First Monday 4(6), 1999.
  3. Chris Rasch, The Wall Street Performer Protocol (http://www.firstmonday.dk/issues/issue4_6/kelsey/), First Monday 6(6), 2001.

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