There are only five distribution models that can make money in an age of instant data duplication:
1) Don't let it out of the box until you've been paid for it, but once you’ve been paid, release it with as freeware. This has the disadvantage that unless people know who you are, you can’t get paid at all. Even then, there are problems where if the money isn’t raised you can either lower your demands (thus assuring that people won’t pay less time) or sit on a piece of work you’ve finished and never get paid for it.
2) Don't make money off of the data, make it off of selling physical items associated with the data. (where the physical items can range from hardcopy versions of the data to t-shirts which associate you with it). This is great if you’re Penny Arcade and people really want your T-shirts, but how many people want Norman Mailer posters?
3) Licensing the data to other people (so that they can use it to sell things, make their own products out of, make films out of, etc.). Great, unless nobody wants to make a movie out of your book, or to sell happy meals of it.
4) Charging for simplified, reliable access to the data. So that, yeah, you could go and track down the UA books on Kazaa and spend ages trying to find someone who has them, but if UA.com charged you $2 a book for a downloadable version, you'd fork it over just to save on the hassle. Not a bad one this. And this is quite common now, in some ways – I’ll pay to read things now even if I thought that I might be able to track them down in a couple of days, given the spare time. For people who don’t like internet searches, this becomes worth even more.
5) Begging. Where you just ask people to send you money because they think you deserve it. Which can work wonders, if you have that kind of devoted following. But if everyone does it, I’m not sure there’s enough money to go around.
The current system is basically a cross between (2) and (4), where they try to make the copying as hard as possible so that it's easier for you to pay for access to the CD/book/computer program. This will only continue to work so long as data sized are too large to easily transfer (it's failed already for books and music) or usage requires a service that's held centrally (i.e. Steam, which requires a centralised authenticator before you can access your game).
I want to know what pros and cons people see in these. I want to know which of these people will go for. I want to know if anyone can think of alternatives to these. If you know anyone who has an interest in this kind of thing, pass it in their direction. Get me feedback!