[Wikimedia-l] Fwd: "Free Culture Conservancy" exploratory meeting in NY, April 12th.

Andrew Gray andrew.gray at dunelm.org.uk
Tue Apr 10 12:42:49 UTC 2012

Via OKFN - forwarding, as possibly of some interest. Hopefully this
will make it to the new list okay!

This is an excellent suggestion, I think. It's proposing a charitable
organisation which would:

a) acquire copyrights (probably by bequest) in order to freely license them;
b) act as a clearinghouse to support "selling" the free licensing of
creative works (we pay you $1,000, you release your novel as CC-BY-SA)
c) support people contesting dubious takedown notices
d) support and train people in freely licensing their own work
(distribution logistics, negotiating with publishers, etc)

Of these, a) and b) are probably the most interesting from the WMF
perspective - c) is a bit outside our scope most of the time, and d)
is already something we [should be? are?] aiming to do.

We have definitely discussed option a) in the (distant) past on
foundation-l, and while it may not be something WMF itself wants to
get into handling, it's certainly something we would benefit from
someone else doing - it increases the amount of quality free content
in the long term, and does so by offering a mechanism which may
encourage people who would not otherwise be willing to contribute
their material at the present time. I don't think we've ever
considered b), but if it does get off the ground it's certainly
something which would benefit us!

Any thoughts?


---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Rufus Pollock <rufus.pollock at okfn.org>
Date: 10 April 2012 09:41
Subject: [okfn-discuss] Fwd: "Free Culture Conservancy" exploratory
meeting in NY, April 12th.
To: okfn-discuss <okfn-discuss at lists.okfn.org>

May be of interest to members of the list (those based near NYC!).



From: Karl Fogel <kfogel at questioncopyright.org>
To: <a bunch of people>
Subject: "Free Culture Conservancy" exploratory meeting in NY, April 12th.
Date: Fri, 06 Apr 2012 17:40:57 -0500

This mail is written so you can easily respond with just "Yes" :-).
Feel free to forward it within your organization.

It's about an experiment we want to try -- and we want to be able to
say that your organization agrees the experiment is worth making.  Can
we say that?  Read on.

(We're not asking for material help.  We'll do a Kickstarter campaign for that.)

Also, you are welcome to come to our meeting about this in New York
City on Thursday, April 12th at 2pm, at 1995 Broadway, 17th floor.
This is short notice, so if you can't make it, don't worry -- there
will be other chances with longer notice.  But we'd love to see you


We're considering forming a Free Culture Conservancy, a long-term
non-profit that would perform several interrelated functions:

 * A repository for copyright estates.

   We've heard from some artists (including one very well-known
   one, who has asked to remain anonymous) that they'd be
   interested in having their works released under free licenses
   [1] after their death, and that the mechanism they feel most
   comfortable with is to will the copyrights to an organization
   that commits to such release.  There various reasons why
   artists might prefer that mechanism; for one thing, an actual
   transfer of the "property" can avoid certain kinds of
   resistance from heirs.

 * A liberation facilitator.

   Some time ago, we had an idea that government copyright
   offices could serve as a registry of liberation prices [2]: a
   copyright holder could record publicly the amount they would
   accept to liberate a given work either into the public domain
   or into free licensing.  (There are a couple of more steps to
   it, but that's the basic idea.)

   Then we realized that a private foundation could serve as
   such a registry too -- there's no need to wait for
   governments to do it. Furthermore, doing it in the private
   sector makes an interesting model possible:

   On one side, the Conservancy approaches publishers and other
   groups that have large, unprofitable backlists, and
   negotiates liberation prices in binding contracts (i.e., "You
   agree that if we bring you the specified amount of money,
   you'll liberate this specific work.  If we don't bring the
   money, nothing happens.")  It also approaches individual
   authors with the same message, when the author has the
   necessary rights.

   On the other side, the Conservancy solicits confidential
   requests from anyone (say, a cause-driven group with an
   interest in a particular work being publicly available); it
   also encourages such requests where it can.  When such a
   request is received, the Conservancy keeps it confidential,
   but makes sure to include the requested work among the works
   discussed in some larger negotiation with the relevant
   current rights holder.

   The Conservancy is explicit about the fact that this is going
   on; it just doesn't reveal the exact works, in order to avoid
   affecting a rights holder's assessment of backlist market
   value.  (Another way to say it is, the Conservancy plays an
   information asymmetry game, but is open about the fact that
   it is doing so.)

   For some works, the stars will line up, and there will now be
   a credible way for people to fundraise (e.g., on Kickstarter)
   to liberate that work -- because the target price has been
   set and won't suddenly go up as soon as the buyers get near
   their fundraising goal. The Conservancy may stay in the
   middle, enabling it both to take a small percentage on top of
   the actual liberation price in order to fund its operations,
   and to enable contributions toward liberation to be
   tax-deductible for U.S. citizens.

 * Institutional backing for takedown counterclaims.

   There are many instances of videos or music being taken off
   of sites (e.g. YouTube) due to incorrect infringement claims.
   It's tough for an individual author to handle these, but an
   organization might be able to provide some economies of

 * Training and instruction on how to free works, distribute, etc.

   Question Copyright has already been doing a little of this,
   but fundamentally we're an advocacy organization that
   concentrates on reframing public debate -- which is different
   from a service organization that works with artists and

   Nina Paley has held "How To Free Your Work" workshops.  We've
   also helped several artists negotiate free (or "free-er")
   licenses with their publishers, and see an increasing need
   for that -- e.g., for template contract language, guidelines
   for authors on how to negotiate time-delayed free licensing
   into their contracts, etc.

   But all this would be more appropriate for a separate Free
   Culture Conservancy to do it, with a mission & program
   profile better suited to such services, and without a
   provocative name like "Question Copyright" making it hard for
   organizations such as the Authors Guild to even sit down and

Our next step, assuming the idea survives the NYC meeting :-), is a
Kickstarter campaign to raise enough money to start it.  I think its
prospects are good; the idea is explainable, and there are a lot of
people out there who would be willing to try this experiment.
Kickstarter funding will probably be decisive: major initiatives need
funding, and if we don't raise enough, then this one will have to
wait. There's a certain value to just having the idea circulating
anyway -- but we'd like to do more than just have the idea circulate,
and being able to claim your support for this experiment would make
our Kickstarter pitch that much stronger.

In the long term, this won't be a program of Question Copyright; it
should be an independent organization (hopefully with your
involvement). We may start it off as a QCO program, to take advantage
of our existing 501(c)(3) infrastructure, bookkeeping, etc, in the
early stages.

We would appreciate your feedback, and feedback from others in your
organizations.  If you can make it to the meeting in New York next
week, that would be great.

-Karl Fogel

[1] "Free licensing" in this context is shorthand for any license that
meets the Freedom Defined terms -- so CC-BY, CC-BY-SA, CC0, for
example, though not -ND and -NC.

[2] http://questioncopyright.org/declared_value

Co-Founder, Open Knowledge Foundation
Promoting Open Knowledge in a Digital Age
http://www.okfn.org/ - http://blog.okfn.org/

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- Andrew Gray
  andrew.gray at dunelm.org.uk

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