Tag Archives: creative commons

Does FREE work?

To narrow that down a bit, does the posting of stories, novels, and art for free downloading, reading, viewing, and even sharing, make any difference in print book sales, in attracting more traffic to an author's or illustrator's blog, in doing anything to help that artist's career?

I give away a lot.  I have a whole blog dedicated to some of my Creative Commons licensed content.  I post my art regularly here on theophrast.us, on Flickr, deviantArt, and other art forums and presentation sites.  I posted an SF novel Nanowhere almost four years ago under Creative Commons license.  I post 3 to 5 panels for my web comic Saltwater Witch every week. 

Free, all of it.  Free to download, to read, to share, some of it out there for years. 

Does it work, giving all of this away if you're just starting out?  (I know it works if you're an established author, celeb, marketing guru, so I don't need the Doctorow, Scalzi, Anderson, Godin, etc. cases). 

I'm curious to hear what other writers, illustrators, and readers think.  Maybe you can guess what I think by what's on my blog or the Saltwater Witch site.  I'm considering posting my entire novel Seaborn, which came out last July.  And I'm wondering about the effectiveness of free.  I completely get Tim O'Reilly's aphorism that the problem isn't piracy, it's obscurity.  Maybe my real question is does giving things away solve that problem?


Saltwater Witch Web Comic.

In Creative Commons news!


How cool is that?  The service I’ve spent the last year designing and developing–Ozmo–has a nice big post on the creative commons blog along with a description and links to the genius behind the Ozmo video, Ryan Junell.


Ozmo provides commercial licensing services for bloggers, photographers, illustrators, anyone with online content.  We’re out the door with support for text and image licensing, and we’ll be following up with video and audio (music, podcast).  We play well with Creative Commons, using CC+, so you can create a CC license along with your Ozmo license.

More: www.ozmo.com

Copyright is a funny thing

Funny as in tricky and interesting to think about.  It’s also something I think all of us should be thinking about more.  A friend of mine sent me a link to the cnet article about Carl Malamud’s monumental effort to put laws, municipal codes, public records, all kinds of city, state, federal government documents online for public consumption.

Tech activist takes on governments over ‘copyrighted’ laws

This month, he’s busy liberating California government codes, including San Francisco’s building code, electrical code, fire code, and zoning code. That means purchasing printed copies for as little as $40 or as much as thousands of dollars, digitizing them, and posting them as PDF files without copy protection…One hitch is that San Francisco is one of those municipalities that claims its building code is copyrighted. (The notice says: "All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or distributed by any means or stored in a database or retrieval system without prior written permission of the City and County of San Francisco.")

This all sounds good to me, commendable.  As far as I’m aware almost all government documents (outside of security, defense, etc.) are public domain in the U.S.  However, that doesn’t mean they’re accessible–which really is Malamud’s point.

Here’s what I find interesting.  The tone of the article appears to me to make too big a deal of the various copyright notices on some of these city government (SF) and content aggregator (LexisNexis) works.

I know a bit about copyright law.  I think we all know enough to be dangerous…which I’m sure is a good thing.  And copyright law is tricky.  It covers works and the arrangement of those works in a “fixed form.” 

I don’t need to register a work with the copyright office for it to be copyrighted.  Under current U.S. law, I just need to put the work into fixed form, an RTF doc on a harddrive, a landscape on watercolor paper, my notes in my journal…all copyrighted.  An idea cannot be copyrighted.  You have to make it real, write it down, paint it, arrange it, record it, etc.  (Registration with the copyright office is required, I believe, if you intend to sue infringers for damages).

I can post Aristotle’s public domain books on my web site—or anyone’s PD books, pamphlets, poetry, and put a "Copyright © 2008…" at the bottom, and my intent might be to keep all the rights for the format of the web page, the layout, page structure, images, etc., and may have nothing to do with the actual content.  And there’s no law to stop you from scraping my web site or feeding all the text through RSS and presenting it in its entirety—without my layout, designs, any specific designs I may hold the rights to.  Perfectly legal. 

So Carl Malamud is scanning print copies of these regs, probably OCRing them, and posting them on the web  (Check this out: http://public.resource.org Lot’s of stuff here).  As far as I know–not a lot, I admit–that may be legal.  It sounds like SF doesn’t really care.  Their attorney said, “The San Francisco Municipal Code is a public record under our state and local public records laws,” and this is probably a case of confusing the scope of rights.  Very easy to do.  This is definitely the case with the paragraph–in the article–on Sonoma’s code in LexisNexis.  LN is about presenting everything, being comprehensive, being able to search and find just about any document you’re looking for.   And the quoted LN copyright notice?  I’m sure that’s standard terms of use and covers their document formatting, linking, brand, etc.  They actually don’t have rights–beyond presenting it to their customers–to much of their content, or are very limited in what they can convey and to who they present their aggregated content by their terms with the publishers–the actual rightsholders of the works. 

As far as charging for copies of the regulations, that just sounds like the state covering their printing and handling costs–bound to be pricey. 

This is interesting stuff anyway.

BTW, that copyright symbol up top is PD, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.