The digital age has made the notion of copyright as an enforceable protection of an income stream outmoded. How then do you make money out of an idea?
In the past, people created stuff to be heard (or read, or seen) and that meant you could make money, because people were prepared to pay for the privilege.
In the present, and presumably, into the future, stuff is being created and everybody who chooses can hear you, for free, so the question becomes how do you make money from something you give away.
The answer is tangled up with what people do with what they hear for free, the value they can add in other ways than just flogging a single copy of a book, or CD.
Science fiction writer, blogger and all round interesting character Cory Doctorow has his books on his site, free to download, just click and there it is, saving in Australia at least $23.99 on a purchase. You can also order a hard copy, signed if you want it, and see the other stuff he has written, and get an opportunity to be exposed to his views.
As a writer, his objective is to get over a point of view, as well as making a living, and that happens any time someone reads his words. “Free Books” attracts them to the site, and often they end up buying, something, even if it is only into an idea. Most people prefer to read a book, so often an engaged reader will buy a copy of a book they have read for free, and they refer others to the book, buy it as gifts, and generally act as apostles for the specific book, and the body of work.
A number of headline bands are following the same strategy, download the music for free, and come to the concert, where they will sell you a seat, merchandise, an experience you will remember, and a place in the “triiibe”, the term coined by Seth Godin and explained in his book which he initially gave away, but has subsequently inhabited the best seller lists as a result of the value of the ideas articulated. That book gets referred to in places like this, and sales sometimes result, sales powered by the initial freebie, and the power of an idea.