The Humble Indie Bundle is a bunch of independently developed cross-platform games (GNU/ Linux, MacOSX, Windows), which were offered to gamers for download in exchange for a donation. The donation amount was decided by the user, and was shared between the game developers and two charities (the EFF, and Child’s Play), with the ratio decided by the donors. In response to this, the developers of a number of the games released their software engine code under the GPL free software license. The report by  Techdirt says that some of the games also had their art (visuals, music etc) released under a non-commercial CreativeCommons type license.

The experiment in direct marketing of products based on free cultural objects rather than intellectual property has been enthusiastically viral marketed by bloggers like SlashdotLinux Gaming News, and Technabob, and its success celebrated on BoingBoing, the Source, and other free culture blog sites. Copyright consultant Jonathan Bailey of Plagiarism Today is determined to judge the experiment a failure because some users still circumvented the pay page and downloaded for free, even though over a million dollars was raised for the developers and the charities, in a very short space of time. He doesn’t consider that many of those users may have had legitimate reason for not paying, such as access to the right currency for making a donation, or that their browser might not have worked with the payment system,

In any case, isn’t the justification for intellectual monopolies like copyright that the innovator should be able to pay their R&D costs, and make a living from their creativity, thus encouraging them to create more? Isn’t that what happened here? Is it really such a tragedy that a portion of users didn’t directly contribute to that, this time around? Bailey tries to claim that the results debunk the defences of “piracy”. In fact, they do more to debunk the central claim of the “intellectual property” mafia - that creators will not get paid if their creations are not converted into property and sold in a super-regulated DRM-fortressed marketplace, where customers are criminals until proven innocent.

The next step is to see more games developed as free code software, and the accompanying artwork released under free licenses, right from day one, and crowdsourcing investment used to pay the developers and artists as they work.

Filed August 17th, 2010 under Uncategorized

In the late 90s I came across a toungue-in-cheek website called RTMark, which allowed people to publish proposals for culture jamming stunts, and invite funding from other site users to see the stunt performed. I was reminded of this earlier this year when I saw the massive response p2p social networking project Diaspora received through a site called Kickstarter (more details in my blog article Transition To Web Free).

Kickstarter combines the direct investment concept embodied in RTMArk with the crowdsourcing concept of free code software and Wikipedia, and the online auction concept of Ebay and TradeMe. Hundreds or thousands of people can make microdonations to a project or cause. If the sum of the donations reaches the target set by the person making the proposal, the money is collected by Kickstarter, and passed on. Otherwise no money changes hands.

The beauty of this form of investment is that it works by the creation of many small gifts, given freely by people according to their means, rather than by financial institutions creating debt, and expecting the repayment of the debt with interest (”return on investment”). Theoretically the crowdsourcing investment model could be used by artists, for example by musicians who want to record a high quality studio album (I hope someone had alerted Courtney Love), or production groups who want to create tv shows, documentaries, or even movies.

The only downside of all three for me is that they are overseas based, and require overseas bank accounts. In response to this I proposed a project to create an Aotearoa-based crowdsourcing investment site, codenamed ‘Intentions Bank’. So, I was thrilled a few days ago when a member of the NZOSS OpenChat email list put me onto GiveALittle, which was founded in Dec, 2007. Although it doesn’t implement the more radical goals of incorporating time banking, LETS/ green dollars and other community currencies, GiveALittle does allow people with NZ bank accounts to give and receive both pledges, which work the same way as Kickstarter, and donations, which are paid out immediately.

Other crowdsourcing investment sites I’ve looked at include Invested.In, and ChipIn. Each of the sites have slightly different interfaces, rules and conditions, and perhaps somewhat different motivations, as suggested by the names. Kickstarter and Invested.in are designed to provide seed funding for new ventures, with an assumption that the recipient will return a product or service to the investors, or to the public at large. ChipIn is more orientated towards fundraising for causes and non-profits. However, they also promote a widget to collect donations for bloggers, which could also be used as an online busking hat by artists who give away their work online.

Filed August 13th, 2010 under Uncategorized
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