This is the new model for paying artists proposed by Bruce Schneier, the legendary cryptologist. Essentially, an artist will say "I will release my new work as soon as I have been paid X number of dollars." People interested in seeing said work then send the artist money. When the artist has received X dollars, they release the work to the general public--both those who have contribuited and those who have not. The analogy is like that of a street musician, or busker: they will play as long as enough of the watching crowd chips in to make it worth their while, but anyone passing by can enjoy the music while it lasts.

update (July 24, 2000):Stephen King is releasing his new book, The Plant, online under this protocol. This is, to my knowledge, the first work by a well-known artist to be released like this. I plan to chip in my $1 as soon as my paycheck comes.