[cc-licenses] After Disney or: Help Robot George Get A Life

Greg London email at greglondon.com
Mon Aug 7 08:25:43 EDT 2006

> 1 Creators of Robot George derivatives (eg artists and writers) must
> credit me and my site, where I'd host and promote the adventures of
> Robot George for them, assuming they are in the spirit of both the
> character (pretty unclassifiable concept legally so let's not go
> there) and I intend to nurture to the obviously soon-to-be thriving
> Robot George community at large, by housing the cooler instantiations
> of the character.

Since it's your website, you can decide what to host depending
on whether or not someone else's derivative is in the "spirit" of things.
All derivatives, whether hosted or not, would have to attribute
you and your website. You would be able to select which ones
actually get some of your bandwidth. So the fact that "spirit"
is an unclassifiable legal concept shouldn't matter.

> That means in cc terms simply 'by' to me but I
> wonder if subcreators on other sites have to credit me ? in other
> words is 'by' actually 'by-by-by...' ad infinitum? I'm guessing it is.

Yes. Attribution is cumulative.
If your website requires a user agreement that people assign
attribution to your website, then all contributions made on your
site do not accumulate attribution. It simply points to your site.
But people still maintain their copyright on their contributions,
they simply waive the attribution part.

> And 2 (the kicker) In order to have a business going here,  I allow
> attributed derivative non-commercial works anywhere (nc), BUT I'd like
> to be able to use community derivations when posted to my site or used
> elsewhere for attributed commerce (let's say your excellent Robot
> George drawing has mug/teeshirt potential)
> While my scheme sounds on the surface like a potential bum deal for
> other creators (your version of my idea = commerce for me) it is meant
> to be just the opposite: I'm trusting that artists and contributors
> trust me not to be a dick: in essence, to promote them professionally,
> reward them fairly and even to a certain extent maintain a brand.

Ah, trust. Trust may work for you. But hypothetically, I could
release a work all rights reserved and rely on people ot trust me
that if they send derivatives to me, I'll send them a token of
gratitude. But for some reason, systems like that never seem to
get a lot of contributers.

The problem is that basically, you can't do this with a CC license.
What you need to do is have people assign copyright to you of all
their contributions, then you release the works CC-BY-NC while
you take the really good bits to Cafe Press and sell T-shirts.
And people will have to trust that you don't forget them as you
run off to the bank.

Of course you wouldn't forget them, but how do they know you wont?
More importantly, how would they know that you'll give them
a fair cut of the action after the fact? Imagine submitting
artwork to a magazine for possible publication, but you don't
know how much you'll get paid until after they accept, and if
they accept, you cannot withdraw, you simply must agree to it.

This is basically the system you've proposed. It requires
that the magazine (or you) act fairly after the fact, when
it (or you) holds all the cards. If you're a fairminded person,
fine, you'll get fair results. But if you're not fairminded,
or if someone else takes over the project who isn't fairminded,
then the project will take advantage of its contributers until
they realize that they're not getting treated fairly.

You won't be managing this project forever, and how will you
know that the third or fourth generation of heirs wont simply
be out to exploit this project, rather than to foster it and
the community?  You'll have to *trust* that they will do the
right thing. But then it becomes a little more obvious the
problems inherent in a system that requires trust.

Rather than trust, the solution is to -commit-. Commit to
some binding agreement, probably in the form of a license,
that will protect the works and protect contributers equally.

The problem, I believe is in your perspective revealed above
where you say that "In order to have a business going here,"
that you must be the only person who can make money off the
project. This is a faulty premise. And it leads to bad conclusions.
A project that requires trusting the central project manager
isn't a good scenario. It will open up contributers to bad
feelings if you don't treat them in the way -they- feel is fair.
(independent of whether you think its fair). And if this is
done while you use a CC license and some contracts to move
copyright ownership to you, then that might give CC licenses
in general a bum rap they didn't deserve.

And I'd rather not see CC licenses get a bum rap.

> Obviously, even from a jaded cynic's perspective I'm strongly
> incentivised to be a good citizen rather than an evil baron, in order
> to even have a creative community engaged.

Actually, contributions must be made in advanced. You could then
accumulate a bunch of good contributions, then take the whole kit and
kaboodle and run to Hollywood. Only then would the contributions dry
up, but you've already got your check from Hollywood. And what do you
care once you've got your check from Hollywood?

Put another way: Greetings. My name is Trustworthy Trent. I am the
grandson of the late General George of Nigeria. If you'll just send
me your bank information, I can transfer 15 million dollars ....

Which is to say that "incentive" differs from one person to another.

> Another way to think of this question is what would (let's say) a
> clueful Disney exec do to promote Mickey Mouse after (let's also say)
> the copyright finally expires on the character? Her aim will be to
> foster, promote excellence and continue commercial exploitation in a
> weirder world of multiple mice. As, to a certain extent is mine.

Well, the US government already answered the question of how Mickey
Mouse will continue to be promoted after its copyright finally
expires (assuming that ever happens): It will enter the public domain
and anyone will be able to work on it and make money from it.

Your question (and Disney's question) is more like "how can I maintain
control of the work and continue to make money?" The answer being keep
it under copyright which gives you the exclusive right ot make money
and extend the terms of those rights for as long as the public will
let you get away with it.

> I was thinking for me by-nc-sa, but there's no (?) provision for me to
> make a buck or two here by cherrypicking the best derivatives for
> commercial ends.
> Or is there?

No, there is no CC license that will let you do this.
You would need to use licenses in conjunction with
a contract between you and all the contributers assigning
copyright on all contributions to you. You would then
release the works CC-BY-NC while you maintain the exclusive
right to use those contributions commercially.

I would suggest re-examining the idea that the only way
to make money is to have exclusive commercial rights.
If you are going to use a community oriented project and
want the community to have an incentive to contribute, then
treat the community fairly in advance by committing to a
license that works for everyone. And then figure out a way
to make money from there.

Wikipedia and the Great Sneetches War


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