Flash Fiction: a complete story
in one thousand or fewer words.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Digitital Licensing for the Little Guy or Gal

Cory Doctorow, uber speculative fiction writer and blogger has an interesting piece on digital licensing for the little guy or gal (i.e., commercial agreements sans lawyers). His thoughts are tied to the Creative Commons family of licenses, one of which is "free for non-commercial use," such as my contribution to the Thoughtcrime Experiments anthology. With this license, you can remix the anthology and distribute it all you want, non-commercially. If you sell it, you're in violation of the license.

Cory is talking about commercial use, which also is anticipated by the Creative Commons license family. He uses an example of a craft piece he bought, a coke bottle carved in wood by a villager in Africa. Would the Coca Cola company go after that craftsman? Of course not. It makes no commercial sense--or any kind of sense--to do so. If the craftsman felt the obligation to make a deal, the lawyers' fees on both ends would negate the point of it.

Cory states that simple agreements are adequate for the commercial space, particularly on the community scale or lower end of the Internet commercial space, between the African craftsman example and a Sony/Coca Cola merchandising deal...probably closer to the former than the latter. He gives this example of an agreement for "your logos, literature, photos, and artwork":

"You are free to use the visual, textual, and audiovisual elements of this work in commercial projects, provided that you remit 20 percent of the gross income arising from your sales to doctorow@paypal.com. You are required to remit these funds on a quarterly basis, or on an annual basis where the total owing is less than $100."

There is just this agreement, with no lawyers to negotiate the details down to the gnat's behind. Can you be cheated? Of course. Could a small enterprise afford to monitor the practices and finances of their fifteen distributors of their small-volume screen-printed tee shirt business and stay in business? Unlikely. It might as well be simple, so that you can be simply shafted, rather than expensively shafted...or simply rewarded.

Go here to Cory Doctorow's article for the five elements of his thoughts on this subject: how we got here, Creative Commons, questions of commerce, the alternative, the self-serve difference, and a built-in future.

Cory: I only used a little bit of your piece. Please don't come after me.

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