[cc-community] Making money with By-SA

Terry Hancock hancock at anansispaceworks.com
Thu May 25 23:01:03 EDT 2006

drew Roberts wrote:
>  On Thursday 25 May 2006 05:08 am, Terry Hancock wrote:
> > I think we're mostly in agreement on the point I was originally
> > making.
> >
> > The "business models for copyleft art" thread is separate, and I've
> > mostly deflected that.
>  Should we take that discussion to cc-community?

Probably so. I'm replying to both if you just want to pick this discussion
up there.

I only recently discovered the CC community list, myself and joined a few
days ago.

> > However, it's an interesting subject in itself, and I'm very
> > supportive of the things you've been saying. You've suggested some
> > ideas that I haven't thought of, and I haven't given them enough
> > thought.
> >
> >>> I have noted a lack of evidence of successful
> >>> proofs-of-principle of strong models of copyleft-art
> >>> monetization.
> >>
> >> And I face the same problem that you do above. It seems to me
> >> there is no great effort on the part of many to create enough
> >> copyleft-art to make the necessary experiments.
> >
> > Yes, and that's always a problem. ISTM that any way to encourage
> > By-SA material to be made is good for this goal.
>  In general, yes.
> >> The thing is, some get paid to work on the Free ones as a result
> >> of these "free-samples."
> >
> > True of software, but I can't think of any free aesthetic examples
> > off hand.
>  For my 2004 nanowrimo effort, I raised quite a decent sum of money
>  from people I knew. The book is going to end up under a (probably)
>  BY-Sa license. It is not up on the net under one now like my 2005
>  effort Tings as I made the mistake of including short bits from songs
>  playing around here on the radio from the era of the novel.
>  Not quite an exact match. But I think I can do it again if needed.
>  Also, it seems to me that things like PBS and NPR are a natural for
>  creating copyleft works. (Unless they are not really as public minded
>  as they would like everyone to believe. Or am I missing something?)

I'm not really sure about PBS -- there's idealist and cynics both who
work for them.  It's always a bit of a fiction to speak of the character
of an organization.

> >>> I understand that you have a vested interest in finding
> >>> successful copyleft-based business models for art.
> >>
> >> I think my real vested interest is in preserving my freedoms for
> >> the future. I think most people have the same interest but most
> >> don't see it. (Obviously, it could just as easily be me who sees
> >> things incorrectly.)
> >
> > The public good of copyleft works is easy to see, but the good for
> > the creator is harder -- so I've spent more effort on that part.
>  Well, I know as a creator, I have a bunch of work that will never see
>  the light of day because it stems from locked up works. If instead of
>  being primarily exposed to locked up works I was exposed to free
>  works, I would be more productive. I would be more efficient labour
>  wise and my cost of materials would be lower.

This is a funny point.  We live in a complex world, and works are
released under many different license schemes and distribution
systems.  It's a sad thing that a fundamentally aesthetic choice --
what media millieu to embed in one's work -- is so deeply controlled
by commercial and legal choices.  What really should happen is a
better legal environment -- especially with regard to fair use, collage,
sampling, etc.

But until that changes, we will find ourselves behind a kind of cultural
wall (or perhaps the proprietary world will find itself behind one -- it
depends on how you look at it.  Clearly, in this respect, the copyleft
regime has an advantage.

> >> [regarding copyleft business models]
> >> For instance, what about an NC on sales except physical copies at
> >> retail only on a BY-SA license. Any thoughts on the effects?
> >
> > I am baffled by what this means. You want a By-NC-SA that exempts
> > sale of physical copies? But you want the By-SA to apply to copies
> > thus sold?
>  No, more like a BY-SA that restricts sales only, not public
>  performances and the making of derivatives, while granting an
>  exception to the sales restriction to retail sales of physical goods.
>  (Perhaps even restricts such sales to mom and pops only. Single
>  location per seller?) I would keep the right for online sales and
>  wholesale sales of physical goods. Something like that. The ratailers
>  could buy from me or burn their own. (Is there a legal way to do
>  this, and would it have beneficial effects.)

The trouble is, the result is still going to be an "NC" license, and it
will still be fundamentally incompatible with the By-SA.  The license
proliferation issue is a serious problem, not just because of the
conceptual limitations, but also because even two licenses which are
conceptually identical (or similar enough that no one cares about the
difference) -- at least w.r.t. a particular work -- e.g. the GPL and the
By-SA -- are nevertheless *legally* incompatible.

What I'm saying here is that if I have an "artistic" work which is under
the GPL license and another which is under the By-SA, I can't combine
them and release them under either the GPL or the By-SA.  Because,
even though the authors probably wouldn't object (two licenses with
very similar intent -- namely 'copyleft'), the legal language doesn't 
that hte

>  Would more models open up if CC changed the licenses such that it was
>  not the "work" that I had to license, but only the instance that I
>  released with the license and anything stemming from it?

Isn't that technically true already of By-SA licensed material? There is
of course the point that digitally identical copies are pretty hard to
tell apart, so it would be silly to argue that someone violated the license
because they based their work on the freely-downloaded copy (under
a restrictive license) and the paid CD-ROM copy.

>  See what I was trying to do here:
>  http://www.ourmedia.org/node/42417
 > http://www.lulu.com/zotz
> >>>> An artist can insist on being paid every time they "sing" and
> >>>> still release all of their work as copyleft.
> >>>
> >>> Service model. The artist gets paid for their time performing.
> >>
> >> Nothing wrong with the service model.

Well, actually, there is something "wrong" with the service model: It's
labor-intensive.  And so it puts a pretty firm cap on how much money
you can make with it.

Whether that's "wrong enough" to create a problem is a different
question, though.

 >>> That said, I think it is
> >> more than that. After enough copyleft mass has been built up,
> >> those making use of this have an advantage over those that don't
> >> If your band can go to the club and explain that you only perform
> >> BY and BY-SA work and so the club will not have to pay PRS,
> >> ASCAP, BMI for your performances, that is a selling point for the
> >> gig. Etc.
> >
> > Yeah, that's the value proposition of copyleft, but the
> > monetization is still based on the service model.
>  It may be, but it is service model plus. The plus being the reduced
>  "cost of goods."
> >>>> Income streams that don't go away when your creative works
> >>>> are copyleft...
> >>>>
> >>>> Gig and concert for musicians. (Plus endorsements, action
> >>>> figures (had to put that in for fun) and merchandise and the
> >>>> like.
> >>>
> >>> Same: service model.
> >>
> >> Just to be clear. Merchandise is not the service model.
> >
> > Yeah, there's actually a few different things included there.
> > Merchandising is selling material stuff related to the work. The
> > free software analog is selling (e.g.) video cards with
> > free-licensed drivers.
> >
> >>>> For painters, they can still sell their originals. They can
> >>>> also still sell numbered and signed prints. As a matter of
> >>>> fact, couldn't they reserve their signature as a part of a
> >>>> trademark and not allow free use of that (sort of like what
> >>>> Red Hat does with their trademarks?)
> >>>
> >>> True, of course.
> >>>
> >>> Every one of these is pretty marginal as a business plan,
> >>> though. They make a lot less money than direct sale of copies
> >>> of a work, and when they do work well, they do so by promoting
> >>> the values of patrons (corporations, for the most part, but
> >>> also rich individuals), and so are not exactly populist
> >>> solutions.
> >>
> >> I don't see where selling originals and numbered prints is a
> >> marginal business for painters. Where do you think they make the
> >> bulk of their money?
> >
> > You have a point there.
> >
> > I've always been baffled by this, though. The idea of paying for
> > totally artificial scarcity (i.e. numbered prints) always struck me
> > as twisted, though. Also the whole concept of "real" works versus
> > indistinguishable copies (e.g. *this* toy astronaut has been in
> > space, but that one hasn't).
> >
> > I guess I'm just too utilitarian at heart.
>  The thing is, we don't have to fully understand or agree with each
>  possible model, just recognise its existance and effectiveness.

You're right -- I'm just explaining my problem with relating to these
kinds of business models.  I haven't got a problem with exploiting
people's irrational desires for "real"-ness. But since I personally have
a much weaker appreciation of this psychic value, I find it harder to
predict what the market will want.

I guess that why God created agents. ;-)

> >>> IOW, they would promote artistic works that favor upper class
> >>> values.
> >>
> >> Not if hte upper class can see a way to make a buck promoting
> >> other values.
> >>
> >>> (Not that upper class values shouldn't be represented, but my
> >>> point is that biases are introduced because of the model)
> >>
> >> True, but in the big money models under "all rights reserved"
> >> isn't this the case already?
> >
> > To a degree, but this relates to the "making a buck promoting other
> > people's values" argument. Selling copies of something does that:
> > the distributor can accumulate enough sales to offset the cost and
> > make a profit.
> >
> > But in the patronage model, the patron doesn't make direct income
> > off of the work from lower class consumers, so he has little
> > motivation to pay for something to their taste.
>  There is no reason why patrons cannot make or save money off of the
>  results of that patronage.
>  For example. Stores pay good money to have music playing. If they
>  would fund copyleft music with a part of this, they could play that
>  instead and save. (I can think of other possibilities.)

Okay. So the "patron" is a club or store owner, who collects money from
people who listen to music in his place. The music is part of the 
so there's a clear motivation to keep purchasing new (or paying for more
art to be created).

This is very close to the "internet radio" or "bulk download" models.

It also suggests patronage pricing systems -- e.g. the most requested
artists get scored and the top 100 or so get paid more for their work
than others, hence there is competition to be the most popular work,
encouraging quality in the work developed (but leaving entry wide-open

> >>> The thing is, copyright monopoly rules undeniably *have*
> >>> benefited creative works during the time they have been in
> >>> force. There are many, many writers, musicians, singers,
> >>> artists, and illustrators who are gainfully employed because of
> >>> the ability to excercise monopoly control over the sales of
> >>> copies of their work -- the "masquerade of information as
> >>> matter". So it's pretty hard for me to scoff at this model:
> >>> it's a proven reality.
> >>
> >> We can see the benefits, but we can't see what we may have
> >> missed. This goes back to the issue brought up very early in this
> >> post.
> >
> > Sure. And there probably was a cost.
> >
> > But do you really believe that, without copyright protection that
> > we would have the vast collection of literature, music, and art
> > that we do today?
>  I doubt it, but I think we have gone over the top now and the laws
>  and practices currently in place are harming the situation now. At
>  least in some realms.

Yes, of course. I'm only defending the underlying concept, not the
extremity that we see today.  I see copyleft art as existing alongside
proprietary for some time to come, though.  I don't think it can quite
supplant the old system entirely, because I believe there are many
niches it can't fill that the old system can.

> >> One difference between the public domain and the copyleft-commons
> >> is that there still exists the dual-license monetisation option
> >> for works original to the author.
> >
> > Of course, I meant that the non-copyleft free-license commons is
> > conceptually equivalent to public domain. Copyleft is conceptually
> > distinct, although related, and some different aspects apply.
>  I am not really that interested in the non-copyleft free-license
>  commons except that I appreciate those who have made the works and
>  made them available to me. I personally would have preferred that
>  they made them available to me under a copyleft, but the gift horse
>  and mouth warning from my younger days comes into play.

Well, the point is that as a copyleft artist, you are free to use material
that is public domain, non-copyleft free, or copyleft-free (*using the
same copyleft system you chose!*).  The PD or NCF commons is the
'true' commons, though, shared by all.  The CL commonses are divided
due to multiple CL licenses which are generally incompatible.  Fortunately,
there isn't that much division as yet (except for the prominent and
worrying case of the "NC commons").

So from a raw-materials point of view, they are all the same. The CL
commons, however, is your "edge" over proprietary works.

> >>> As such, I would argue that the benefits of a time-release are
> >>> similar to those gained by sharealike licenses. But they work
> >>> for different business models, which may incorporated better,
> >>> more optimized coverage of artists' endeavors. Both aspects are
> >>> meant to be means of restoring the original balances of
> >>> copyright law. Convincing artists of the value to them of these
> >>> balances is tricky, but that's precisely what CC's mission is
> >>> (as I understand it).
> >>
> >> Can we start a copyleft "art" registry? How about here for a
> >> start:
> >>
> >> http://www.ourmedia.org/node/111124
> >
> > That's a lonely looking page.
>  It is very lonely indeed.
> > Actually, I've been going through my old artwork, and I have
> > decided that as soon as I can figure out how to scan it (it's
> > oversize), I'm going to probably release my 1980-1990 work under
> > By-SA. I did a number of science fiction illustration series back
> > then for concepts I was working on, but never finished. It's not a
> > huge body of work, and I'm not actively drawing anymore, but it's
> > something I'd like to make available so it doesn't go to waste.
>  I know there is not enough time in the day.

Actually, it's not so much the time, as I don't yet know how to get
18"x24" artwork scanned.  I have a flatbed scanner, but that's only
about 9"x14", and knitting together multiple pieces of a picture is
a nightmare. There's probably a copy shop, or maybe an equipment
rental I could use to solve this, but that will take some research.

(Suggestions welcome)

> >> Oh, but it might. we will not really know until there have been
> >> large scale experiments to see what happens.
> >>
> >> I see synergies between copyleft code and copyleft art where we
> >> can offer things that regular players might fear to compete with.
> >
> > Clearly computer games are a cross-over point.
>  There are other areas I have in mind as well.

Yeah, well there are many, in fact.

First of all there are two major classes of synergy:

1) Artists using copyleft tools are more likely to favor copyleft 
    (The existence of Gimp, Inkscape, and Ardour make a powerful point
     to artists who use them).

2) Artists may target copyleft tools as objects of copyleft art (e.g. skins,
    themes, etc.)

> >>> I'm not opposed to that, but it doesn't excite me that much.
> >
> > [to clarify 'it' means 'loss-leader/free-sample strategies using a
> > copylefted work as the freebie']
> >
> >> Are you a big user of Free Software?
> >
> > You could say that, yeah. ;-) I actually don't use anything else --
> > at least w.r.t to everyday tasks.
> >
> >> This is not what I am advocating. I am advocating running a real
> >> experiment with copyleft works. See if you can't come up wtih
> >> profitable avenues that would be unavailable to you with other
> >> licenses.
> >
> > Hmm. Well, there are a few, and you've raised some ideas for models
> > I haven't considered.
> >
> >> It is how you might be able to make money off of the work of tens
> >> of thousands of other like minded creative people that I find
> >> interesting.
> >
> > Well that's what the big recording labels are interested in, isn't
> > it. ;-)
> >
> > The point is, though, can the 10,000 make money off of the 10,000's
> > work?
>  I think so. And as the laws and their enforcement become more
>  draconian, I think it will become more and more clear to people. We
>  shall see.
> >> Another thought, the infrastructure of freedom still has to
> >> develop. It is hard to find works by license along with type.
> >
> > This is a MAJOR problem, I agree 100% on this one.
> >
> >> For instance, if someone knows of a good way to find BY-SA music
> >> with a high signal to noise ration on the searches, I would be
> >> very interested in hearing of it.
> >
> > I have no reliable mechanism, but I have certainly tried. So far, I
> > find that there are "knots" created by individual registry sites
> > (BTW, there's some useful starting points in the LinuxUser &
> > Developer (#62) that should be hitting newstands just about now. I
> > believe the article is titled "Music on the Lam".
> >
> > Again though, a major problem is the "a Creative Commons license"
> > problem -- CC-By-NC comingles with CC-By-SA. It's the primary
> > source of the noise you refer to, in my experience.
>  I have a different experience. I can often find BY-SA fine, I just
>  get text with a BY-SA license instead of the music I am looking for.

Never had that problem myself. I guess I'm probably not using the
same tools.

> >> it is early days yet and I am in it for the long haul. I would be
> >> very happy for early successes, but they are not expected at
> >> this point.
> >
> > Hmm. I guess for CC it is still "early days". My first copyleft
> > art project was under the Design Science License, because CC hadn't
> > been invented yet. That was 2000. The overall project has not yet
> > succeeded, but we got some very interesting contributions. I'm
> > trying to kick it off again with a GPL license on the code and a
> > combined GPL2+ + CC-By-SA license on the aesthetics (for piecewise
> > distribution, the CC-By-SA is superior, but for inclusion in Linux
> > distributions, it's desireable to be compatible with GPL). (I'm
> > refering to http://light-princess.sf.net ).
>  Even six years is not a long time really. These ideas have to grow
>  and spread. Then there need to be some successes or a big enough body
>  of work available and findable.
> > I was not able to contact everybody, though, so there is still
> > stuff stuck in the copyleft-conflict limbo, which is why I'm sort
> > of sensitive to the problems it creates (and disjoint "commonses"
> > in general).
>  Indeed.

(I left a bit more of this conversation in for the benefit of the 
list thread -- we were originally discussing a variant type of "NC" license
on the cc-license list, but it evolved into a discussion on copyleft and
business models that you see here).


Terry Hancock (hancock at AnansiSpaceworks.com)
Anansi Spaceworks http://www.AnansiSpaceworks.com

More information about the cc-community mailing list