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TorrentBoy: The Doctorow Conundrum

MCMWednesday, May 13, 2009

Cory Doctorow wrote a fantastic and thought-provoking piece today at Internet Evolution where he basically calls for something that closely resembles the TorrentBoy Project, but with one key difference: adapting the license to allow for a free-for-all commercial ecosystem. It's not too far off from my original plans, but terrifyingly different in some aspects. He provides a sketch of a license framework, which reads:

"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 [email protected] You are required to remit these funds on a quarterly basis, or on an annual basis where the total owing is less than $100."

It's a simple concept: make whatever you like, and feel free to sell it, as long as you remit 20%. Same deal as TorrentBoy, except there's no gatekeeper watching over things. It's the idea that intrigues me and scares me at the same time. If I don't get to veto poor products, how can I protect the brand? Cory's suggestion is to include the following:

"As a condition of this license, your work must prominently bear the SELF-SERVE LICENSING logo and the words: THIS WORK IS CREATED UNDER THE TERMS OF A SELF-SERVE CRAFTER'S LICENSE. THE ORIGINAL CREATORS FROM WHICH THIS IS DERIVED HAVE NOT REVIEWED IT OR APPROVED IT, THOUGH THEY ARE COMPENSATED FOR ITS SALE."

Is that enough? Not sure. It's certainly interesting, though.

So the question is: if I change the system for TorrentBoy to allow for this kind of free commercialization, will it do damage to TorrentBoy, or help it? I normally don't have a problem trying crazy new things, but there's already a lot of not-me investment in the concept, and if I do this, it could be undercutting everyone else. How does everyone feel about it? Should I give it a go?

Or, more to the point: how would I give it a go? Would these extra terms piggyback the standard Creative Commons license? Could I say: "You must adhere to the CC-NC-SA terms, but if you choose to commercialize, follow these rules..."? I suppose I need a lawyer to look at that. Anyone know one willing to figure out complex issues for free? :)

I'll think about this for a few days. I really like the idea, and I'm glad I'm not the only one dreaming in this direction. But yeah. It's a big question, with no easy answers...

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