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Thursday, October 30, 2008


Copysquare_logo_125“Copysquare” is a copyright-licensing scheme I’ve proposed to empower DIY video producers, nano-budget filmmakers, and other citizen media creators by encouraging the sharing of the basic building blocks of media production. It’s the subject of a law-review article I’ve just published (here’s an extended abstract).

Here’s the pitch: Ordinary people now have the means of producing and distributing high-quality video content worldwide. But one shortcoming leaves the full potential of the citizen-powered media revolution unfulfilled: Creators lack ready access to stock footage, sound effects, soundtrack music, and still photography. By fostering a regime of sharing these media workparts, copysquare aims to provide desktop creators with the means to take on increasingly ambitious projects and to attain new levels of production quality.

Copysquare follows in the tradition of, and borrows much of its values from, the free-software/open-source movement and the Creative Commons effort. As with both of these endeavors, copysquare leverages copyright law and standardized licenses to construct a voluntary sharing regime that is insulated from outsiders who would undermine the project by taking unfair advantage of the participants’ generosity. Unlike these prior endeavors, however, copysquare uses certain unique licensing mechanics that are specifically designed to overcome problems associated with the sharing of media workparts. Copysquare’s three basic license provisions are: (1) a requirement of notification, (2) a right to reject, and (3) “favored nations” treatment. The copysquare license says, in short, “You can use my creative work – film footage, picture, sound effect, etc. – in your creative work, but you must notify me that you are doing so (the notification provision), give me a chance to opt out (the right to reject), and you need not pay me or credit me, but if you pay or provide credit to others for the same kind of contribution, you must pay me and credit me on an equal basis (the favored-nations provision).”

Having finished laying the groundwork, my next task is to draft the license itself and make choices about the details of how the scheme will work. (Here’s the project website.) If you would be interested in chipping in your two cents or possibly looking at license drafts, I would be extremely grateful – you can e-mail me at [email protected].

Posted by Eric E. Johnson on October 30, 2008 at 11:38 AM in Film, International Law | Permalink


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As production cycles become shorter, I think that transaction costs rise to the fore. For example, I can write and post a long blog entry in an hour or two. I use CC images regularly with my posts. I couldn't reasonably use copysquare, because of the right of rejection.

When in a creative mode, I don't want to invest in exploring use of something that the creator might reject. So I'm going to suggest that a substantial narrowing of the rejection, and that you consider standardizing that area. For example, I might put in place a "Copysquare: no violence, no religious use" license on, allowing the consumer to know my choices in advance.

Posted by: Adam | Oct 31, 2008 11:19:58 AM

Without passing on the usefulness of this proposal, what is the reasoning behind doing this outside of the CC or GPL projects? If it is as important as I'm sure you argue in your article, I would imagine CC would have no problem adding it to their existing framework.

Posted by: Josh S. | Oct 30, 2008 11:56:35 AM

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