News reaches me of a potentially very effective but highly controversial fundraising move planned by Liberal Democrat HQ for the general election.
Back when I worked at party HQ, I was involved in trademarking the party’s logo so that the party was in a stronger legal position when dealing with cyber-squatters or producers of fake literature.
Now the party is planning to go one step further, trademarking the party’s name and starting to enforce the trademark, charging royalties for its use.
The Press Office has unsurprisingly insisted on an exemption for the mainstream media and party members will be exempt from the royalty charge – a canny way of encouraging those councillors who never quite remember to renew their party members to actually do so in future.
However, all other users of the party name will be billed a royalty fee, and the party is partnering with one of the Obama 2012 campaign spin-off consultancies to embed automatic micropayments into social network services such as Twitter.
The hope is that a large number of small payments will, Obama fundraising style, rapidly add up to a significant new source of money for the party ahead of the 2015 general election.
In future when people use the words ‘Liberal Democrats’, ‘Lib Dems’, ‘LibDems’, or the singular variant of them, Twitter will prompt for the user to set up their micropayment account and then charge an expected 2p per tweet. Small enough for people not to mind paying, big enough to add up to serious money over time.
The big gain for anyone who adopts the service, of course, is not from charging for use of political party trademarks but rather for those of major brands or celebrities.
That’s where the US consultancy’s real interest lies and they’re making very optimistic noises about shortly signing up Justin Bieber. With people like him being named tens of thousands of times a day online, this could turn into a big money-spinner for celebrities, and may even help combat trolling online as it would become a case of having to pay to abuse.
The chief executive of the consultancy is visiting London next week. Check back next week for my interview with Loof Lirpa.