Idea: Combine Flattr and Boxee

This is something I’ve been simmering on for a while, hoping against hope that an influx of spare time might let me implement it. Alas, it seems unlikely, so here’s a post to push it into the collective unconscious of the internet.

Boxee is a platform for media PCs based on XBMC which is free to download (they eventually plan to release a hardware appliance). Flattr is a social micropayment site, who I think have got the payment system just right (fixed monthly amount you can choose, Flattr evenly distributes that amount amongst the things you “flattr”, that way you can freely flattr things without worrying about breaking the bank).

I would like to combine the two. I have a lot of media, but I rarely watch broadcast TV. I’m not purposefully trying to avoid the media creators being paid, but:

  • I want to watch shows when and where I feel like it, not at designated times.
  • I don’t want to be bombarded by inane advertising that is so blatantly manipulative and in your face that it usually puts me off the products.
  • I don’t want to accumulate more physical stuff by buying bits of plastic (aka DVDs)
  • I hate iTunes – I wouldn’t trust it to do… well anything, except reliably have the GUI thread lock up while trying to use it (yes, on OSX as well as Windows)

Thus I resort to downloading torrents and sharing media with friends. I want to give back to the media creators, but it has to be convenient. To me, convenience is the primary factor driving piracy. I can download almost any piece of media and I can usually do it faster than it takes me to go to the shop or dvd rental store. I also don’t have to return anything or accumulate and waste physical materials.

So, my idea is, to set up a trust of some sort, which creates a plugin to be added to Boxee, this in turn flattrs the media that you watch. This trust would then be responsible for passing the payment on to the initial creators. The difficult part is getting the money to the creators, but you could allow for creators to claim content and/or only seek the creator when a certain threshold of money has been assigned to that piece of content.

Flattr also allows anonymous flattrs, so it’d hopefully protect people from being singled out for piracy while the law catches up with digital reality. Besides, you could also allow people to just flattr episodes they are fond of, so that there is no evidence of whether it’s just a fan or someone who “illegally” downloaded the show.


#1   Thilo on 12.20.10 at 4:39 pm

Flattr definitely needs media player support to grow beyond blogs.

I do not think this should start with donations for pirated content, though (neither Flattr nor the content creators probably want to be associated with that). But there is a lot of freely distributable material out there, some of it already on Flattr, but most is not. If players supported collecting donations, that might encourage the creators to register with Flattr.

I’d love to see some progress on this, and also on a standard format to include your Flattr ids in your content, see

#2   Joel on 12.20.10 at 5:34 pm

Hmm, I’m not sure. The Flattr founder Peter Sunde was also the co-founder of The Pirate Bay, so this might swing them one way or the other on issue (they might not care, or Peter might be trying to avoid any bad press rubbing off on this new endeavour).

Love the idea about a standard way to include flattr ids in content! It might be a challenge to avoid people tampering with the ids and then redistributing… but I guess flattr could police that behaviour.

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