This crossed my desk today...
Brandon H. Bell About 950 Words
Hail Caesar: Creative Commons and the Small Press
Brandon H. Bell
"*It is not these well-fed long-haired men that I fear, but the pale and the
1. Write story
2. Get said story published
3. Profit! Karma!
I believe short fiction is important. The small press magazine I edit
(Fantastique Unfettered, aka FU) uses a Creative Commons license, CC-BY-SA*,
for reasons related to this view, and in service to the dual end-goals of
money and karma on behalf of the writers we publish.
Our alignment is not indie against corporate, small against large, or fan
against pro. Those are foolish stances. Our alignment is one against
obscurity**, expressed via a pragmatism that acknowledges money may or
may not follow our good karma. We certainly hope it does: our goal, after
providing quality fiction to our readers, is to pay writers professional
This article will appear in the second issue of FU, but I hope it's not
where you originally read it. You see, it carries the same CC-BY-SA
A Creative Commons, Attribution, ShareAlike license, meaning that others
do pretty much anything they want with the article, but they must give
attribution and release under the same. Each instance of a presentation,
adaptation, or derivative of the article is, essentially, a finger
back at FU. Um, not *that *finger.
The old world-think of walled gardens and content farms suggests the
way forward is copyright extensions, possibly to perpetuity. Our
old-thinkers recognize the current audience is merely the first
It's a numbers game, and while individual creators will not make much to
crow over statistically, the bulk IP of the mass of creators certainly
These Caesars would own human culture, every song a commercial jingle,
myth protected by a (tm).
I'm not an ideologue: I've stated in blog posts that I don't know how
CC-BY-SA scales, and for the Stephen Kings of the world, traditional
copyright may be the only reasonable default for their work. Creative
Commons is a tool, in a toolbox that includes tradition copyright, and I
have no prohibition against the latter (though even if I reach
level, I would ensure my work returns to the culture at some point.)
With Aether Age (our first CC-BY-SA project, a shared world of
Greeks and social revolutions in Egypt) we've made the work immediately
available to the culture. The same is true of FU. The same will be true
my novella, Elegant Threat, to be release in the M-Brane Double #1 later
this year. The New People by Alex Jeffers, the other half of the Double,
will carry a traditional copyright. My first novel may carry a
copyright, depending on the publisher.
Writers deserve to be paid for their work, and we hope that you, dear
reader, will take an active interest in supporting short fiction. If not
then some other venue. As a writer I hope to someday make loads of cash
my craft and to have people bemoan my place on the NYT list. *That
hack,*they'll complain as I laugh my way to the bank. (Yeah, it's a
*writer thing.*) So, a final reminder that our use of Creative Commons
licensing is not purely ideological or a revolt against traditional
Creative Commons licensing does not rob writers of ownership of their
the ability to publish it in anthologies, collections, or even to waive
license to accommodate incoming requests to publish/adapt under other
The license is a tool to reach readers, and to proclaim cultural
to the future. Maybe our work, and work like it, becomes an island of
open/libre culture in a future of copyrighted IP masquerading as culture.
intend to run FU much like a nonprofit (though it isn't a nonprofit), to
profit off the periodical ourselves, but to use any incoming funds to
FU self-sustaining, then better pay our contributors.
CC-BY-SA is a tool for proactively freeing art to the culture, and will
right for some projects, and wrong for others. It is a tool for
karma and reaching more readers. The other CC licenses and traditional
copyright are also valid tools.
While the small press is a valuable part of the greater cultural
big publishers (and big writers) are our heroes. Copyright is,
agnostic, insofar as it allows creators and their families to benefit
their work. The same is true of Creative Commons, and use of CC licenses
does not preclude profitability.
It would be easy to stop there, with that pithy statement ignoring the
challenge we face in obscurity. The small press is a playground for the
the odd, the possibly non-commercial --or not commercial right now--,
niche. The small press bears the responsibility to pursue the mandates of
given niche while striving for a quality of content, presentation, and a
dedication to the idea that if anyone should be hungry and unsatisfied
imitation and shallowness, the merely commercially viable, it is us.
To close on a theme, perhaps our Caesar is that societal voice addressed
those who would participate in the culture, that suggests: *you are a
We have come not to praise Caesar, but to bury him.
Please steal this article and post anywhere you like, just provide
attribution and keep it under the same license. Encourage others to do
**See the Tim O'Reilly article here http://openp2p.com/lpt/a/3015
***Use the above link for the general license, attribution: Brandon H. Bell,
editor, Fantastique Unfettered, http://www.fantastique-unfettered.com