Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Taking creative license

Creative Commons License
KN@PPSTER by Thomas L. Knapp is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.

This is an easing of terms, and I intend it to apply retroactively, i.e. to all of my prior writing here on KN@PPSTER, and to all writing subsequent to this post and prior to any subsequent change of terms. Just to be clear, my interpretation is that I can't subsequently tighten terms for work issued under this license, even if I wanted to. If at a later date I want to write new stuff on KN@PPSTER and exercise more control over its use, I can't "backdate" those new terms; I can only apply them to work published after that change. In other words, if you use stuff under the current terms, I can't come back later and say "you have to do X to comply with my new policy."

The previous license required attribution, disallowed commercial use, and required creators of derivative works to "share alike," i.e. to license those derivative works in the same way. The new license requires only that you attribute my work to me (with a link to knappster.blogspot.com if at all feasible). You can use it commercially if you think it's worth something. You can create derivative works from it, and you're free to handle those derivative works in any way you like vis a vis copyright, licensing, etc.

If none of this makes any sense to you, here's Mike Linksvayer of Creative Commons to explain it:

So, why am I bothering with all this? Several reasons:

First, the more I explore the concept of "intellectual property," the less credible I find the whole idea (see my latest at the Center for a Stateless Society for more on that). And since I've been urging the recording and movie industries to get it through their heads that the Age of Intellectual Property is over, I figure it's worth taking steps in the direction of relinquishing my own claims. Lead by example and all that.

For that reason, I considered just putting KN@PPSTER in the public domain -- waiving copyright entirely and putting no conditions whatsoever on the use of my work -- and I may yet do so. I decided to go with "attribution required" for the moment not because I plan to hire lawyers to track down those who don't attribute and sue them, but because the license in question seemed like the easiest way to get the attention of people who might not otherwise reflect that it's only polite to attribute works to their authors. I'm back and forth on that, though. As far as I can tell, 100% of people who re-publish, quote or cite my stuff do attribute it, and would probably have done so whether they were "required' to or not.

Secondly, going with the licensing that allows for the easiest, broadest possible use -- providing that people attribute the work properly either because they're "required" to or just because they're honest, decent human beings -- fits well not only into the overall revenue model anyone who's not blind can see coming down the pike, but into the specific revenue model appropriate to a small blog.

I see it this way:

Few people, if any, are willing to pay a subscription fee to view this blog, or to purchase the ability to read the articles on it a la carte. The tip jar brings in a little money now and then, but the main revenue generators are ad commissions and Amazon commissions (and we're talking low double digits per month here, folks).

To put it a different way, the primary revenue source for KN@PPSTER is putting ads in front of eyeballs. The more eyeballs, the more ads. The more ads, the more money. And there's probably a limit to how many people will bring their eyeballs here unless I'm proactive about attracting them. Word of mouth, links from other bloggers, and search engine results are three ways of getting those eyeballs on those ads.

I'm likely to get more word of mouth and more links from other bloggers if people are free to re-publish, quote and cite me with abandon. And if those people properly attribute/link what they are re-publishing, quoting and citing, my search engine rankings will go up, too. Which means more eyeballs on more ads. Which means more money.

There are also potential second-order effects. The more I'm re-published, quoted and cited, the more likely it is that I'll be noticed and taken seriously by a (paying) magazine editor or by someone who's looking for a (paid) "ghost" to write an article, a speech, or even a book in his or her name.

There you have it. The best way for me to make money on my writing, at least in this venue, is to give it away. So I am.

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