Offering your material for free will make you money

At least if you are Monty Python. After offering all their material for free on YouTube, sales of Monty Python films and series at Amazon have exploded.

Yes, the Pythons are an established brand and so you naysayers will complain that this wouldn’t be possible for people like you and me. But it is! Look at Yahtzee’s success, his movies going from a YouTube hobby to writing episodes under contract for The Escapist. Look at Cyriak’s surreal animations (some of them quite Terry Gilliamesque). Cyriak is one of the UK’s most successful people on YouTube. He’s also done some of the idents for sumo.tv and at least one music video.

This is more and more proof that the classic notion of copyright is outdated and needs replacement. Not just because handling the right to copy someone’s work has been a weird thing to do ever since the book press was replaced by cheap laser printers and PDFs. Go, YouTube stars!

YouTube’s not the only distribution channel we need, however, that would centralize control. As soon as we find material that is under some permissive (for copying) license, we can set up our own channels that are independent of corporate control. Using distribution methods that warez junkies have known for decades, we should help those artists that give us permission to help, that put their work under Creative Commons, the Art Libre license or similar. An example is this funny and slightly pythonesque short film by Ana Husman. Her servers are crushed by requests, so I’ll try to fetch the movies somehow and stick them on The Pirate Bay/ISOhunt and eMule. Update: I’ve torrented and converted all her movies I could find, including Lunch. They’re up on The Pirate Bay. Thanks to Tomislav Medak for the link to the original files!

Her films are completely awesome, so this is step one for me, become part of the distribution chain and offer my bandwidth so she doesn’t have to. If Ana’s stuff ever appears in a store, on Amazon or in a cinema, wonderful! That’s the moment where offering stuff for free will make her money.

We’ve dreamed for years about this day, and I totally missed it when it came to pass. Today a fairer way of dealing with creative content is possible, thanks to permissive licenses and distribution technology that was formerly exclusive to warez. In the 90s, we’ve dreamed about putting the powers of couriers and release groups to work for a media distribution system, always concluding with “but the big media companies won’t let us”. If you go back to discussions on Slashdot between 96 and 98, you should catch some of that. We didn’t get our own release groups for art (maybe we should!) but we did end up with BitTorrent. With permissive licenses, there is no one stopping you from distributing something you like — the dream comes true.

And who knows, perhaps offering something for free will make you money.

Update: With Ana Husman’s server down, I’ve been trying to find her CC licensed movies elsewhere. It’s tough! Especially festival organizers have an opportunity to learn something here, and to educate visitors. They could link directly from festival programs to downloads of CC licensed stuff, but so far I haven’t seen a single one that does so. Perhaps the organizers aren’t even aware of the CC status of what they’re showing? Anyway, I’ll keep on searching and hoping.

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