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Using Creative Commons Licenses For Film
Monday, July 25 2005 @ 02:49 PM EDT

My article on why an author might want to use a Creative Commons license has resulted in some interesting feedback I'd like to share with you. First, I heard from a film maker, Brad Fox, of Rocket Ace Moving Pictures, who used the Creative Commons license on an experimental film, and he did it with a commercial motivation. Here's part of what he told me, reproduced with his permission:
I work in feature film. I do professional work in big-budget fare, but most of my personal work is in small budget/small format projects.

From 2003-2005 I produced a 52-episode zombie comedy series for the Internet called "Dead End Days". And I didn't hesitate to put it under a CC license. The value in serialized content is in a regular audience, and the clearer you can make it to your audience that you don't care about the "mechanics" of building that audience, the easier it is for them to copy/share/perform/remash your work -- and hopefully do some of your work for you in reaching wider audiences.

By the same token, nothing in CC stops you selling your works, or working them into another format - if that's what you so choose. You can even sell your works but not allow anyone else to under certain circumstances.

I thought his email was so interesting I asked him if he'd explain more to us about why he chose that license, for strictly commercial purposes, and how it worked out. He graciously agreed to do so.

Then Rick Stanley asked me, if we use a picture of a hog standing in a trough to depict Microsoft's patenting style, what animal should we use for SCO's litigation? He suggests perhaps the hagfish, perhaps because of its habit of "burrowing into dead or dying animals and eating them from the inside out." That link shows a picture of the lovely creature. When threatened, it has two defense mechanisms. It secretes copious amounts of slime from slime glands all along its sides and it can "tie itself into knots and then slide in and out of this knot". Can you think of any better animal to associate with this litigation? If not, maybe the hagfish will enter O'Reilly's Animal Menagerie someday. It's a joke, folks. No huffy emails or comments are needed. Speaking of jokes, you don't want to miss the hagfish slime scone experiment.

Here's what Brad had to say:


When people discuss Creative Commons licenses, it's often from the point of view of the traditional Internet mediums: text and, sometimes, still image. However the CC licenses are equally appealing to artists working in other visual and aural media, and for reasons that can be as commercially motivated as they are altruistic.

I work almost exclusively in feature film. I do professional work on big-budget studio fare, but most of my personal work is in small budget and small format projects. As such I think I’m in a rare position to comment on both "Commercial" and "Art" aspirations having spent a goodly amount of time in both realities. Plus, 100% of my income is dependant on the exploitation of and profit from copyrighted material so I'm the last person in the world who is for "giving away" creative property or "encouraging piracy" or any of the other nonsense that people level against CC.

From 2003-2005 I produced a 52-episode serialized zombie comedy series for the Internet called "Dead End Days" (still available at ) which was also inspired by Scott McCloud (go figure). And I didn't hesitate to license it under Creative Commons because it was the best possible business decision.

Any artistic venture either "high art" or "commercial art" is dependant on exposure to an audience that is receptive to what you are doing. If no one sees it, it can't be either effective art, or make money. CC provides an easy way for artists to accomplish both (or either) goal -- to collaborate, share audiences, and grow exposure without the traditional networking of "knowing someone" and having to make do with the limited resources and contacts at your disposal.

The true value of any creative content, no matter the medium, is in its audience. Period. Without an audience artists who want to make a statement (artistic, political, or otherwise) have no one to speak to. In the other camp, if one is strictly looking to capitalize on their product (their movies, their band, their paintings, their sculpture) they need an audience with whom to sell. No matter the goal of the creator, Creative Commons clarifies to your audience that you don't care about the "mechanics" of distribution with your content, and that you're happy to have their help to assist most artists' primary goal –- speaking to a bigger audience.

Some folk found the Dead End Days website because episodes were available on various P2P services, or their friends burned them CD's, or because they saw a cool fan-made wallpaper. These new audience members bought t-shirts and stickers. They would have looked at advertising (in this case, we had none). They will buy the remastered DVD when it is available. Many of them will follow the creative team to our next experimental project. That's pure commercial potential, gained for next to no cost -- because we told our initial fans that they should feel free to do our PR work for us.

Effectively, the kind folk who burned, ripped, copied, shared, and publicly performed our work made money for us, for no charge, simply because they liked what we did and wanted to share it with others.

Here's the interesting thing. At the beginning of the series I spent several weeks tracking down rights holders of certain pieces of music building up a library of music that the musicians were happy to let us use. Each had their own reasons for agreeing. Some wanted their creations (the music) to outlive a band that had since broken up, some wanted to spread their political philosophy, some just did us a favour, some wanted to shill new albums. By the end of the series we had thousands of regular fans, and regularly had bands contacting us asking us if to use their music in the show (we used a lot of placed music). Had they been in the CC database as the beginning of the show we certainly would have -- that's where we went first. We knew we could use any of it in a pinch, and then those bands were rewarded for their hard work through exposure (and record sales in many cases) from our viewing audience that discovered them and liked what they are doing.

If more bands licensed their music CC (and many have started in the past year alone) the whole process would require no back and forth. If you want to promote your band using our show -- make your own music video. If it's good, we get free promotional material, if not -- few will see it anyway. Conversely I can find exciting new music to make a better end product next time out -- and those bands will be rewarded (if our product is good) through exposure. Whether that exposure is commercial or political or artistic currency is strictly up to each individual artist to decide. If you want CC to be about altruism or “art demands to be free,” knock yourself out –- but there’s nothing inherent in the license that prevents purely capitalist goals to also be at the heart of a CC licensing decision.

Put another way, Creative Commons licensing lets artists benefit from collaboration without the traditional barriers to "networking" or "licensing". It doesn't matter what your stature is, where you are located geographically, or who you may (or may not) know; Creative Commons lets all artists of all abilities equally reap the benifits of potential cross-media collaborations.

My prime hope for DED was that it would inspire someone, who inspired someone who would create a wildly popular series that makes millions of bucks. Those future series are going to be easier and of a much higher quality with a Creative Commons body of work to drawn on. Artists, with almost no exception, want to share -- because both parties know they have a better chance of advancing through the increased exposure that collaboration can bring. The CC is a flashing light, an indicator from artist to artist that they invite collaboration and creativity and growth. Artists can then spend more time creatively creating, and less time licensing and negotiating.

Hmm, a system in which professionals recognize that through share-alike collaboration, complex systems can be made easier and provide win-win results. Sound familiar?

Open Source Film Making... coming soon, to a multiplex near you?


Using Creative Commons Licenses For Film | 138 comments | Create New Account
Comments belong to whoever posts them. Please notify us of inappropriate comments.
OT - Off Topic Goes Here
Authored by: davidwr_ on Monday, July 25 2005 @ 04:24 PM EDT
Use HTML and <a href="">Groklaw</a>
or similar for links. Please use descriptive titles.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Corrections here
Authored by: jtiner on Monday, July 25 2005 @ 04:24 PM EDT
Although I'm sure they won't be necessary!

[ Reply to This | # ]

Jokes here
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, July 25 2005 @ 04:28 PM EDT
"Can you think of any better animal to associate with this litigation? If
not, maybe the hagfish will enter O'Reilly's Animal Menagerie someday. It's a
joke, folks."

WHAT?!?!?! - you were joking!? - I think not :-)

"No huffy emails or comments are needed"

Come on PJ, don't spoil the chance for some fun.

[ Reply to This | # ]

    The Hagfish Association od North America
    Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, July 25 2005 @ 04:47 PM EDT
    Demands an immediate apology from Groklaw!

    Come on, we know we're slimy creatures, but comparing us to SCO is too much!!!


    [ Reply to This | # ]

    Can Open Source Popcorn be far behind?
    Authored by: kawabago on Monday, July 25 2005 @ 04:53 PM EDT
    Open Source your kernels for a bigger pop!


    [ Reply to This | # ]

    PJ - Book Cover Idea
    Authored by: rsteinmetz70112 on Monday, July 25 2005 @ 05:14 PM EDT
    I think you should using the Hagfish as your book cover illustration in the
    tradition of the O'Reilly Nutshell series. a working title could be "SCO
    Group Litigation in a Nutshell".

    On The Other Hand a picture of a "slime ell", while appropriate, may
    cause some lost sales.

    Rsteinmetz - IANAL therefore my opinions are illegal.

    "I could be wrong now, but I don't think so."
    Randy Newman - The Title Theme from Monk

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    Creative Commons Book Writing
    Authored by: star-dot-h on Monday, July 25 2005 @ 05:17 PM EDT
    "Q" by "Luther Blisset" was a bestseller a couple of years
    ago. A romp through the European reformation years it was actually co-authered
    by four Italians. I forked out $30 for it at my local booksellers as had many
    others, obviously. It was only recently I happened to be reading copywrite
    statements (the things you do after readind GL for a couple of years) that I
    noticed its CC licence.

    Looks to me as though the authors and publishers made a fair living out of that
    particular publication.


    Free software on every PC on every desk

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    Using Creative Commons Licenses For Film
    Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, July 25 2005 @ 05:22 PM EDT
    I think using the hagfish is actually rather appropriate.
    If you didnt realize it, they use hagfish to make eel skin wallets. So that might be all SCO is good for when its all said and done.

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    Open Source Film Making
    Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, July 25 2005 @ 05:22 PM EDT
    Here is the Orange Project that will use entirely OSS to make a movie and will release all files and sofware used under a public license. Here is a recipe for beer released under a CC license. If you are so inclined to brew your own.

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    Using Creative Commons Licenses For Film
    Authored by: inode_buddha on Monday, July 25 2005 @ 05:23 PM EDT
    Hrmm, interesting thought -- I spent about half of my life to date in the world
    of art (drawing, painting, and such). I never advertised much although I did go
    to shows and festivals on an annual basis. Now I am wondering if the Creative
    Commons might be good to use, and publish thumbnails or something. I have *no*
    idea what sort of law or license might apply to my older work -- it is out of my
    hands now. What to do?

    Copyright info in bio

    "When we speak of free software,
    we are referring to freedom, not price"
    -- Richard M. Stallman

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    Tinfoil Hat time or not?
    Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, July 25 2005 @ 05:26 PM EDT
    Sometimes consipiracy theorists are correct.

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    Who does a CC license hurt?
    Authored by: Guil Rarey on Monday, July 25 2005 @ 05:35 PM EDT
    It doesn't hurt the end-user. More access, clear rights, what's not to love?

    It doesn't (or shouldn't) hurt the creator. Creative people can, as PJ's
    correspondent shows, find ways to use the CC license to make a living for
    themselves doing what they love.

    However, it's a grave threat to anyone whose business is based on being an
    intermediary between creators and end-users. Once upon a time, distribution of
    creative works in and of itself was part of the value proposition; there had to
    be some way to connect end-users to creators. Distribution businesses - record
    companies, film studios, book publishers, newspapers, magazines - existed to
    find and nurture creative works and distribute them to end-users.

    The net changes all that. The net can replicate virtually all of the functions
    that distribution companies fulfill in the value chain for no more than the cost
    of bandwidth. Mass-production of copies? Get a bigger server. Public awareness
    and marketing? Google is your friend.

    The one function that distribution companies have traditionally filled that
    doesn't go away with cheap broadband is editorial feedback. Recording
    engineering and production. Movie post-production. Editing and copy-editing.
    The need for those functions - essentially, helping creative people put together
    a professionally finished product - doesn't go away. However, the need for
    those functions in the value chain does not justify the economic
    "rent" that distribution companies are trying to maintain by their
    chokehold on distribution channels. There's gotta be a better way.

    No wonder the members of the RIAA, the MPAA, and all the others are running so
    scared. P2P and copyright violations are not their biggest problem. Their
    biggest problems is that most of the reasons for their existence are gone. They
    are, essentially, dinosaurs. When technology drives out a company's reason for
    existence, the company can adapt or, inevitably, it can die. DEC was a large
    and profitable company; it's now a tiny corner of H-P. On the other hand, IBM
    reinvented itself and adapted to changing times. The same dilemma faces all the
    distribution businesses: adapt to change or die.

    Personally, in trying to motivate legislators against the lobbying of
    distribution companies, I think this probably our most telling argument. Trying
    to maintain the viability of a business model by getting customized laws written
    is bad public policy and a disservice to the public. But that's another rant
    for another day.

    There's a very clear analogy to FOSS. The GPL preserves the rights and
    interests of the programmer and end-user. It does very little to advance the
    interests of any intermediary business based on monopolizing distribution, even
    the ones in Redmond.


    [ Reply to This | # ]

    Plugging Goes Here
    Authored by: Matt C on Monday, July 25 2005 @ 05:42 PM EDT
    Trying to help the RIAA & friends implode: Artists for File Sharing

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    PJ and everyone else
    Authored by: inode_buddha on Monday, July 25 2005 @ 05:48 PM EDT
    You might be interested in This is Bob Young's latest project, and from what I understand it is *very* CC friendly. Mostly it is about self-publishing in an open way, and still being able to make a buck at it.
    (for those who do not know, Bob Young co-founded RedHat)

    Disclaimer: I don't work for these folks nor do I have any content at lulu.

    Copyright info in bio

    "When we speak of free software,
    we are referring to freedom, not price"
    -- Richard M. Stallman

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    the grateful dead were doing things this way for 30 years
    Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, July 25 2005 @ 05:52 PM EDT
    While they weren't using the creative commons license, the Grateful Dead were
    allowing fans to freely tape and trade recordings of their live performances for
    the 30 years of their existence.

    They became one of the most successful live music acts of all time (what other
    act could sell out NYC's Madison Square Garden 9 nights in a row, year after
    year?), without scoring a #1 hit single until after 22 years of performing and
    recording. A big part of their popularity was due to their policy about allowing
    fans to freely trade bootlegs.

    Just offering this as an example that artists can be successful while letting
    their art go free.

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    Musicians are like drug dealers ...
    Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, July 25 2005 @ 06:00 PM EDT
    most of them live at home with their mothers.

    Question: What do you call a drummer who breaks up with his girlfriend?
    Answer: Homeless.

    In his recent book Freakonomics, Steven Levitt points out that some
    'professions' are mostly made up of wannabes along with a few who really do
    well. He made the observation about the drug dealers. It applies equally well
    to musicians. Of course, you can't convince an athlete/musician/drug-dealer of
    that. They only see the big payoff that they probably won't get.

    Most musicians would be MUCH better off releasing their stuff under CC. I heard
    an interview lately with a B list recording artist (he's had a couple of hits)
    who has been in the business a long time. His comment was that most of the
    royalty cheques that he got ended up with him owing money to the recording

    It would be really interesting if an economist were to do a study comparing the
    economic results of CC vs. non-CC. We're starting to see serious economists
    comparing open source vs. proprietary. (An example would be The Success of Open
    Source by Steven Weber.)

    Convincing people to go CC would be a lot easier with some hard data.

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    OT: Here's a beer using a CC License
    Authored by: Tim Ransom on Monday, July 25 2005 @ 06:10 PM EDT

    Thanks again,

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    Using Creative Commons Licenses For Film
    Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, July 25 2005 @ 06:19 PM EDT
    "That's pure commercial potential, gained for next to no cost -- because we
    told our initial fans that they should feel free to do our PR work for

    Ah, but would it work as well if he called them "exploitative jerks".
    Maybe not.

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    Using Creative Commons Licenses For Film
    Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, July 25 2005 @ 06:51 PM EDT
    I do the same thing myself.

    I own Loud Orange Cat Productions ( and I release
    everything under a CC licence.

    I'm currently working on a full-length motion picture to be released under a CC

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    A few questions about licensing under CC.
    Authored by: JScarry on Monday, July 25 2005 @ 07:27 PM EDT
    Since 1994 I've written around 25 software titles for a specialty educational
    market. Most of them sell for $99. I've been thinking of releasing some of the
    older titles and bits of newer ones under a CC license. I'm hoping that if
    people try out some of my titles they'll want more and be willing to pay for
    them. I've got several concerns.

    1. Do people who get some free content think that everything you do is-
    (should be) free and share it with others?
    2. Is there a backlash from people who paid for the content when they find
    out that it is now free?
    3. Do your servers get pounded when your stuff appears on "free"
    lists. I've
    had weeks when I hundreds of requests for free demo CDs from Pakistan or
    Ghana when I know they don't have any need for the software and certainly
    don't have $99.
    4. How much tech support is involved in giving away free software? Can you
    keep customers happy if you only respond by e-mail or with an FAQ?
    5. Do you actually end up making more money if you give away some titles?

    Anything that I'm missing that could turn into a problem down the road?

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    Using Creative Commons Licenses For Film
    Authored by: elronxenu on Monday, July 25 2005 @ 11:34 PM EDT
    Put another way, Creative Commons licensing lets artists benefit from collaboration without the traditional barriers to "networking" or "licensing".

    Aha. So not only P2P, but also Creative Commons challenge the "Music Industry". P2P takes away their monopoly on distribution, and Creative Commons takes away their monopoly on licensing.

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    Hagfish slime pie
    Authored by: pcoletti on Tuesday, July 26 2005 @ 04:49 AM EDT
    I have just read, with mounting horror, that link describing the kids experiment
    to substitute hagfish slime for eggs when making cookies....

    . . . I though Jackass had done it all but this takes the er, biscuit.

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    Using Creative Commons Licenses For Film
    Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, July 26 2005 @ 05:13 AM EDT
    This excellent Star trex/babylon 5 parody's 6 episode is going to be released
    under Creative Commons. Also all older episodes are also available on their
    website for free! Dating back to earily 90's :)

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    Actually PJ...
    Authored by: hardcode57 on Tuesday, July 26 2005 @ 05:37 AM EDT
    ...I really did want to miss the hagfish scone experiment. I'm feeling a bit
    queezy today.

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    Using Creative Commons Licenses For Film
    Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, July 26 2005 @ 07:38 AM EDT

    Just because it hasn't been mentioned yet, the excellent BBS documentary has also been released under a Creative Commons license, with a little of the reasonings behind that decision available here.

    (Some plugging here: Been around in the BBS times? Get it! There's quite memorable stuff in it. Not been around? Get it! Learn about how we communicated electronically before the Internet was around for general use. No, I'm not the creator, I just liked it very much.)

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    I use a Creative Commons license on my film
    Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, July 26 2005 @ 05:52 PM EDT
    Shameless but very relevant self-promotion:

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    Creative Commons Licenses for Educational Materials
    Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, July 28 2005 @ 09:27 AM EDT
    I'm an only an intermittent reader of Groklaw, but I learned of the Creative Commons License(s) here. As a result, my collection of over 100 short animations for introductory physics and astronomy have been released under a CC license. I was delighted to find that my University's intellectually property office enthusiastically supports using a CC license for materials developed and distributed by faculty.
    I've been using open source software for years (coming up on decades), so I guess this is about the only way I see of me giving anything practical back to a community. I guess I'm just thanking groklaw for the education.

    -Mike Gallis
    (not enough of a participant to set up an account)

    If you're morbid enough to care to see (most peoiple hear physics and go "ewwwww!!!"), the stuff is at

    [ Reply to This | # ]

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