Another idea which it seems like someone must have come up with already: ransoming art/content/whatever.

The idea is simple: a content provider sets up a donation box and publishes material enough money has been made. It seems this may only work for someone with an established reputation as a good content provider, but as long as the goals set are reasonable it could work.

This solves a couple problems: it prevents there from being a toll box on the information superhighway as some people have put it (a real problem considering that what’s a micropayment in the US could be considerably larger in a third world country, where even getting internet access is very expensive). But it also encourages people who have the money to donate it.

I see this working particularly well for big name musicians… what if Trent Reznor says he won’t record another album until he gets a $6 million advance from fans? He’d probably get a lot of the money from just a couple of rich nin fans. Then he could release the album on p2p networks and completely bypass the entire label system.

But it could work for someone like E-Sheep Patrick Farley too. I would donate towards a ransom for a new E-Sheep comic.

Update: from the comments: Abe points to Street Performer Protocol.