Page last updated at 12:06 GMT, Friday, 12 February 2010

Pirate boss to make the web pay

Piggy bank, PA
Flattr will funnel cash to sites to reward their work

One of the founders of the Pirate Bay is kicking off a venture that aims to help websites generate cash.

Called Flattr, the micropayments system revolves around members paying a fixed monthly fee.

At the end of each month that cash will be divided among participating sites a Flattr member wants to reward.

Members might want to reward a band that made a track they liked, the author of a story they enjoyed or a site that gave useful advice.

Participating sites will sport a Flattr button in the same way that many have clickable icons that let visitors send information to friends or refer something they find interesting to sites such as Digg and Redditt.

"The money you pay each month will be spread evenly among the buttons you click in a month," said Peter Sunde.

"We want to encourage people to share money as well as content," Mr Sunde told BBC News. "It's a test to see if this might be a working method for real micropayments."

The minimum Flattr wants people to pay each month is 2 euros (£1.73) but members can pay more if they want to.

"That way you have control over your monthly spending on content, and you can rather help many people than just a few," he said.

Many micropayment systems had not proved popular, he said, because they were too cumbersome to use regularly.

Mr Sunde said he hoped it proved popular among the vast number of niche sites run by passionate amateurs that have a small, dedicated audience but which struggle to cover their operating costs.

Initially, Flattr plans to take a 10% cut of any cash paid as an administration fee. But, said Mr Sunde, it hopes to push that percentage lower as people sign up.

"We're not really in this for becoming rich," he said. "We're doing it to change things and making people get money they never got before."

"I know that people are nice enough," he said. "People love things and they want to pay."

Flattr is currently in a closed trial but hopes to be ready to launch by the end of March 2010. It is seeking partners looking to generate some cash from their content.

Mr Sunde said the idea for Flattr came to him about five years ago but could not pursue it because of "other things that took massive amounts of time".

"I wanted to find a one-click way to pay for content," he said. "I wanted it to be based on the idea that different people have different financial situations," he told the BBC. "So doing it in a flat rate manner was the only way."

The "other things" included The Pirate Bay website that pointed people towards copyrighted content such as music tracks and videos. Mr Sunde and three other administrators of the site were pursued in Sweden's courts by film and video game makers.

In April 2009, the four were found guilty of aiding copyright theft and were sentenced to one year in prison and fined 2.7m euros (£2.35m). Final appeals from both sides of the case are due to be heard in early 2010.

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