Laurel L. Russwurm

a writer, the copyfight and internet freedom

“Inconstant Moon” update ~ CC by-nc-sa

with 5 comments

Inconstant Moon BANNER

Glyn Moody directed me to an article taking aim at non-commercial Creative Commons licenses, miscellaneous factZ: Creative Commons and the Commons.

Rufus Pollock makes some interesting arguments, and points out a possible problem in the Creative Commons organization: that it is an independent hierarchical organization, and unaccountable to anyone, really. Still, what was most ironic to me was his interest in removing data(base) material from the public domain (which impacts on his work) while advocating elimination of the noncommercial option from CC licenses (which impacts on mine).

my choice

As a writer about to self publish my first novel, I have considered carefully, and chosen to license it with a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.5 Canada, or CC by-nc-sa.

Creative Commons by-nc-sa button

This license allows any type of remix desired save commercial. I think all cultural material should be absolutely free for personal use.  Personal use must be sacrosanct for culture to grow.

Since I’ve been mulling over and learning about copyright over the past few years, I’ve become an advocate of free culture. I’ve learned a lot, beginning with the copyright consultation submissions made by thousands of Canadians (who were led to believe that the government was interested in what citizens felt to be important in any new copyright law*), and from reading, and having online discussions with many people.

challenging perceptions

Drew Roberts is a multi-disciplinary creator who passionately champions free culture, going so far as to publish his NaNoWriMo novels as he writes. His credo is “Free the Art and Free the Artists.” Although I admire his bravery, for myself, no one reads a word I write until I am satisfied with it. In his inimitable way, the eminently reasonable Drew has gently encouraged me to release Inconstant Moon without the non-commercial restriction.

I’ve also had discussions with copyright abolitionist Crosbie Fitch, who naturally looks askance at the very idea of self publishing, as he feels that all published art and creativity rightfully belongs to everyone, and should be firmly in the public domain. Not that he thinks artists should be denied the opportunity to make a living, just he thinks that they should be paid properly first, but once art is released into our culture, it should be free to copy.

Both Drew and Crosbie are highly intelligent, informed, committed and passionate about the issue, and I’ve learned a great deal from them both. But still, these are radical ideas. Change is difficult. It takes time for new ideas to be understood, and take root. So like many other independent creators today, I am feeling my way in an attempt to decide what combination works for me.

Yet I believe very strongly in the importance of the public domain and the commons.

I may at some point decide to venture the release of a novel without the noncommercial restriction, but not this time. The law of my land (Canada) places all IP under full copyright by default, and contrary to what our American neighbors contend with their absurd USTR propaganda, existing Canadian copyright law is both “stronger” and more restrictive than is good for our culture. Canadian culture is fighting its way to freedom from all the restrictions imposed by both corporate special interests and copyright collectives wanting to lock down our culture even further through the imposition of bad laws and DRM.

If creative commons licensing did not exist, the only choice available to me as a creator would be to publish my novel under full copyright restrictions. I don’t want that. But again, I am trying it on, seeing what’s what, whistling in the dark.

Creative commons double c enclosed in a circle, with black text at right reading Creative Commons and in red dot CA

Lately there has been talk floating around that Creative Commons licensing is too confusing. It is certainly more confusing than outright copyright abolition would be. Some people feel more strongly about various elements of Creative Commons licenses. Like Rufus Pollock, many people think that the Noncommercial restriction should be dropped altogether. Others, like @openuniverse, believe there is no place in the Creative Commons for a “no derivatives” restriction. Others feel share-alike is too restrictive.

Rufus suggests that since most Creative Commons licenses are designated noncommercial, we should be dropping it altogether. He thinks people are dazzled by the Creative Commons “brand” and thinks that it should all be perfectly interoperable. But what Rufus doesn’t look at is the only way for all IP to be perfectly interoperable is Crosbie’s way: through the abolition of all forms of copyright. Crosbie is perfectly correct: the only perfect cultural interoperability is to be found in the Public Domain. Because for some, even a compulsion to provide attribution is too onerous.

[I confess I am looking forward to sinking my teeth into Crosbie's "The 18th Century Overture · A Crescendo of Copyright, Natural Finale and Reprise" as soon as this novel distraction is in hand.]

Inconstant Moon Cover Art

The point is, it shouldn’t be up to Rufus or anyone else to tell me how I can or cannot release my own creative work.

Existing copyright has long since ceased to be beneficial to creators (if it ever really was). And it is because existing copyright law is both dictatorial and stifling that creators have begun to reject it. Creative Commons licensing offers a work-around that allows creators to get free of the yoke of copyright.

The reason Creative Commons is so successful is precisely because it offers all these choices. It is the variations in licensing that gives creators the confidence to release our work in this fashion, in the way in which we feel most comfortable, rather than allow the status quo of full copyright.

Something to remember is that once work is licensed, the license can only be altered to make the work more free. So in many ways, it seems more natural to begin with a more restrictive license. After all, it can always be lightened later.

As beneficial as I believe Creative Commons licensing to be, my concern is that restrictive license provisions will remain in place as long as the current copyright terms. Which can only be a disaster for the Public Domain.

And one of the most harmful aspects of existing copyright law is the ridiculous terms. It shouldn’t outlive the creator, nor should it be transferable, particularly to inhuman corporations. That’s a large part of why copyright has become such a problem today; corporate interests do not coincide with creator interests.

So I’ve decided to put my money where my mouth is. I really don’t know what will happen.

Although I believe it to be good, “Inconstant Moon” may or may not generate income.

Either way, it is my test case. Regardless of how well it does,

“Inconstant Moon” goes into the public domain 5 years after publication.

Creative Commons Zero or Public Domain logo

I want to do this for two reasons.

First: because I truly believe that a strong and healthy public domain is essential for all of our shared culture as human beings.

But my second reason for emancipating my work is far less altruistic: I want to give my creative works a fighting chance of surviving me.



* The later unveiling of Bill C-32 indicated a total disregard for the feedback provided by Canadians in the Copyright Consultation.

Image Credits
All Creative Commons logos licensed by Creative Commons with a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License

Inconstant Moon banner and cover art Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported (CC BY 3.0) lothlaurien.ca

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5 Responses

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  1. [...] At that time, I intend to change the license, to release the novel into the public domain in 2016. [...]

  2. Hello again!

    When I first started thinking about the legality and profit side of writing (i.e. when I had a contract in my hands waiting to be signed or not), my other half & I had a discussion about copyright.

    At first, I was squarely on the side of, “What do you MEAN there’s no such thing as ‘intellectual property’? Don’t be ridiculous. I’m going to spend thousands of hours writing this thing!”

    He (mostly) talked me ’round to his point of view, which I think resembles yours:
    1. The content of a book should be paid for only once.
    2. A physical book should be price of content + cost of manufacture.

    This means that once you buy a copy of the content, it should be free for you to have as many personal copies as you want, i.e. subsequent ebook copies are free, subsequent physical copies are the cost of manufacture only.

    That’s the most he thinks people should be legally required to pay. But he prefers the donation model, i.e. that consumers should pay however much they want for products. He also thinks that this is the most commercially viable option, and on this I actually 100% agree.

    If you look at the financial data for Steam’s donation experiment (they packaged a group of games and asked gamers to pay whatever they wanted for them, including nothing), you’ll notice that they made a lot more money than they would have charging normal price.

    This is because loyalty overcompensated for greed by far. One chap even paid over $10,000 for the package. It’s interesting to note that OpenSource OS users were by far and away the most generous donors. People who used Windows were in the middle, and Macs at the bottom.

    Anything I self-publish will be available for free, under the same license you use here, physical copies will be sold at cost, and there will be a big shiny donate button on my website. I’ll probably explain the nature of the project in the Amazon page, although I wonder how they’ll take that.

    I’m with a small press at the moment, and I’m not sure how our views on the subject intersect, but…anyway.

    Alice M.

    April 25, 2011 at 10:19 am

  3. I’m looking at going totally digital myself. The numbers seem to favor it, what with the number of e-Readers now on the market. And you can offer the reader a better price point. I don’t know what price you are going to offer through CreateSpace but I’m looking at $2.99 as a selling price through Kobo/IBook/Kindle, out of which I get to keep about $2.00, which isn’t bad.

    According to my industrial economics classes, when you come in at a lower price point like that, you drive sales higher. I’m trying to remember what the curve is called and right now my mind is blank, but as the price falls, at first there is little difference in volume, and then you hit a switching point where volume increase almost geometrically.

    If I’ve run my numbers correctly, a $10.00 paperback is on the high side of the curve. Dropping the price to $9.00 will have little effect, as will $8.00, $7.00, $6.00, but we should see a shift at $5.00, a bigger shift at $4.00, and a huge shift at $3.00.

    We’d see an even bigger shift at $2.00 and $1.00 but at those points the digital stores change the royalty rates from 70% to 50% and then 30%. If they stayed at 70% I would go to $10.00 right from the start. Actually I may anyway, since this is the first book of a trilogy.

    Wayne

    Wayne Borean aka The Mad Hatter

    April 16, 2011 at 10:07 am

  4. If publishing/publication is defined as the distribution/communication/release of an intellectual work to the public (or otherwise making it publicly available) then self-publishing is the way of the future.

    The self-publishing authors I ‘look askance at’ are those who replicate the traditional copyright based business model – in whole or part. Traditionally a publisher via a printer makes and sells copies at monopoly protected prices, once enabling a book that cost $10 to print to be sold at $50 (as opposed to a free market price of ~$15) and now an eBook that costs $0 to ‘print’ to be sold at $20 (instead of ~$0-1).

    Bar inertia, making and selling (digital) copies is no longer a viable business (something to get out of, not into). Copyright is no longer effective at dissuading free competition (file-sharing). So, I’m not too surprised that per ingrained tradition authors continue making and selling digital copies, but really, there’s no future in selling digital copies (though fans will effectively patronise them in buying those copies). So, I do indeed look askance at self-publishing authors who believe their future lies in selling copies of their novel.

    The self-publishing author of tomorrow doesn’t sell copies. Instead, they sell their novel – their intellectual work – not copies.

    Selling a novel isn’t exactly unfamiliar to authors as they’ve been selling novels to traditional publishers for centuries – an author doesn’t sell thousands of copies to their publisher (unless they happen to own a press). So, it shouldn’t be too difficult for authors to get to grips with the future business model of selling their novel to their readers (aka fans) – and then, once sold, let their readers print the copies (fileshare the PDF or print it via http://Lulu.com).

    The novel is expensive, requires time, skill and effort, and is valuable. Copies cost nothing and can be produced in microseconds. It should be obvious that the novel is what the author should be selling, not copies.

    However, of course, at the moment, the facilities for selling novels to readers are very thin on the ground. There’s Kickstarter.com, but one swallow doesn’t make a summer. If the only revenue possible for a self-publishing author today is via selling copies, then so be it, but be careful to understand that readers who pay for copies are really patronising the author – given the copy can be obtained elsewhere for nothing. Eventually that patronage can be transformed into commission or sponsorship, i.e. purchase of the consequent intellectual work.

    Crosbie Fitch

    April 14, 2011 at 5:17 am

    • Thanks for clarifying. I enjoyed the math.

      (Just a tiny clarification of your clarification: although digital copies do cost virtually nothing, even with the marvelous POD technology, book-books still cost a bit more than nothing to print.)

      In my lifetime books have always been available to read for free, from friends, family, schools, libraries. That’s how one discovers which books one wants to read, and which authors one chooses to patronise. It is only now that the real costs have dropped so low that publishers seek to trample readers rights to share and make reading not free. That’s the real irony.

      Laurel L. Russwurm

      April 14, 2011 at 1:24 pm


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