Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Community Created Content: law, business, policy (3)

What I love about the book Community Created Content: law, business, policy is the fact, that it gives an extensive overview of the legal aspects of content management and does not stop there. It shifts its focus from law to business. It examines who the people or legal bodies are who want to share their works and what are their incentives. Then it dives into business models, which enable open content and free distribution, using examples.

The authors have typecast the people and institutions that share their works openly in four groups: 1. Drifters; 2. Public producers; 3. Commonists; 4. Commercial users. The drifters do not typically make a conscious decision to open up content licenses. Wikipedia people are typical drifters. They do not make a claim to fame or even to community respect. They accept the use of open content licenses. The second group of licensors depends on community resources like public entities and tax funded organisations. The best example is the BBC, which has opened its archives and licensed their programs with modified CC licenses for the Brits; not yet to the rest of the world (I am still waiting to download and publish on this blog the 3 minutes interview on the launch of IDB Online in February 1985). The third group has a funny name: Commonists; sounds like Communists, but then in copyright. The Commonists want to unlock the copyright system, but want to do this certain limitations through open content licenses. And even the commercial world uses open content arrangements as a bargain for the benefits its provides such as promotion and publicity.

As for the business models the authors have examined six business models where commercial licensors use open content licenses for their business. These models are: 1. Loss leader; 2. Open content service; 3. Free the content, sell the platform; 4. Sell the basic product, let users enhance it; 5. Outsource advertisement or advertisement distribution to users; 6. Wrap open content to advertisement. Thinking in this type of business models is different from the straight balance book of revenues and expenses. Starting a loss leading project is not exactly a pretty perspective; yet it is being used and has proven successful in certain cases. A famous case is Star Wreck, a take-off on Star Track. It was produced by teams of volunteers, used digital sets and guerrilla marketing and the Internet to produce promote and distribute the film to a global audience. Over 5 million people have seen the site, thousands of paid DVDs have been sold, broadcast rights have been bought and Universal pictures has acquired the distribution rights to a special edition of the DVD. Opening content services is well known by know with examples of Blogger, Flickr, Magnatune and Scoopt. Another approach is to free the content and sell the platform; something the science fiction writer and activist Cory Doctorow did his first CC-licensed novel Down and out in Magic Kingdom. The book was not the primary platform; Doctorow was paid for speaking appearances. The model of selling the basic product and letting users enhance it has been cleverly used by the Straits Time in Singapore; it shows a nice way to use citizen’s journalism. The model of wrapping open content with commercials is well known from the blog- and vlog world, e.g. Revver. And with the last model of selling the product and let users advertise it, the authors return to one of the great Finnish export products: Habbo Hotel. The owner of Habbo Hotel, Sulake, has sold the franchise rights to several countries, but has kept close control over the use of its content. Official fan sites are for example required to update once a month and use only the copyrighted Habbo images.

Interesting is the paragraph dedicated to the advertisement campaign of General Motors in march 2006, which did completely go wrong. A contest was started to promote the Chevy Tahoe SUV. GM provided video clips and sound tracks for personalising people’s ads. Besides the servile copy-cat products, GM received also negative ads, judging SUV contributing to global warming.

The chapters show that choosing suitable licenses and business model can help owners to keep control of the financially important use of content. The models show also that the key characteristic of a successful open content system is the ease of use.

The book Community Created Content: law, business, policy has been published by Turre Publishing and is available as a free pdf or as a printed book, available through Amazon.

Blog Posting Number: 643

Tags: copyright, creative commons, community created content, user generated content

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