Choose Your Own Hamlet Becomes The Largest Publishing Project On Kickstarter, Thanks To The Public Domain

from the you-can't-do-this-with-catcher-in-the-rye dept

A Kickstarter project by Ryan North, called To Be Or Not To Be: That Is The Adventure, has become the most funded publishing project on Kickstarter ever, as it recently surpassed $400,000 (he was originally seeking $20,000). While we always love to see interesting and successful crowdfunding projects, this one is interesting for a few additional reasons concerning topics we talk about here: copyright and trademarks. The actual book is, as North explains, "an illustrated, chooseable-path book version of William Shakespeare's Hamlet." So, how does that hit on copyright and trademark issues?
  • Copyright: Even if the head of the Author's Guild doesn't seem to know this, Shakespeare's works are in the public domain, meaning that anyone can use them however they want -- whether it's to make an exact copy (and, yes, there are plenty of those on the market) or to do a derivative work. There have been tons of remakes and updates on Shakespeare's work, and many of them are super creative, such as this one. Kinda demonstrates just how ridiculous it is for copyright maximalists to argue that without strong copyright protection, creativity gets killed off. Just the opposite, it seems. The ability to build on the works of the past quite frequently inspires amazing new creativity.
  • Trademark: North refers to this as a "choosable path adventure" because:
    "Chooseable-path" you may recognize as a trademark-skirting version of a phrase and book series you remember from childhood. Remember? Books in which... an adventure is chosen??
    Yes, they're not using the widely known phrase "choose your own adventure," because it's trademarked, and the owner of the mark has sued before. Of course, the story of the mark is interesting in its own right. Apparently, Bantam Books who helped popularize the original choose your own adventure books let the trademark lapse, and it was bought up by Ray Montgomery, who had run the small press that published the original books, but had not held the original trademark on it.
So we have examples of how a lack of a common "intellectual property" law enabled greater creativity, and how a current "intellectual property" law stupidly limits the option of using the most reasonable description of the work.

Either way, the book looks absolutely awesome, and if you want in on the Kickstarter offering, there are just a few hours left.


Reader Comments (rss)

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  1. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
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    out_of_the_blue, Dec 19th, 2012 @ 3:19pm

    Shakespeare is over-rated. -- Who here has actually read it?

    C'mon, Will's crap has been around 400 years now, you've had endless opportunity, but just never got around to it? Hmm.

    The author has to spend almost nothing on promoting the work, I think that's key: he's leveraging those 400 years of name recognition. Better tests of Kickstarter are in the unknown works of unknown authors. -- I keep tellin' ya, Mike, it's EASY once you've got a widely known name (here it's Shakespeare).

    I just can't find much NEW and internetty here. Certainly not the work itself.

    Heh, heh: this seems to be one of your characteristic internal contradictions: "if you want in on the Kickstarter offering," -- No, Mike, IF I ever want it, there's The Pirate Bay where all is free (unless it's physical).




    Support Mike "Streisand Effect" Masnick's proprietary interest!
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Streisand_effect
    He innovated the term all by himself! He alone! It's HIS!

     

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  2.  
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    Rikuo (profile), Dec 19th, 2012 @ 3:30pm

    Re: Shakespeare is over-rated. -- Who here has actually read it?

    Do us all a favour please. Before the end of the world on Friday, will you explain what the hell you're trying to say or do with that stupid Streisand Effect link?

    Also, talk about missing the point entirely of Kickstarter. The work DOES NOT EXIST yet. Therefore it is impossible to infringe on its copyright, whether through Piratebay or not. Even once the work is released, this project has FOUR HUNDRED THOUSAND dollars in the bank already. If I were the author, I wouldn't care at all about people downloading the work for free: the author has already made close to a cool half a million.

     

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    Arthur Moore (profile), Dec 19th, 2012 @ 3:34pm

    Thanks Mike

    Thanks for talking about this Mike.

    I decided to go ahead and pledge $25 for two different physical books, plus the E-Books and extras. Never doubt the power of physical goods in addition to the digital ones.

    Just because something is not totally original does not make it worthless. As the kickstarter video explains this is one of a handfull of choose your own adventure books designed for adults. Sure it's Shakespeare, but consider that there are over a hundred different bad endings. Each of those had to be written and illustrated.

    As Mike said, this is all about being able to create something both new and awesome without worrying about a company suing for a zillion dollars.

    If you want to see exactly how unoriginal most things are just look at TV Tropes. Most stories re use the same ideas and patterns over and over again. Just because the form is the same doesn't make them bad.

     

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  4. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
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    bob, Dec 19th, 2012 @ 3:40pm

    Uh, copyright DID help creativity.

    First: only in your mind is creating a copy of something worthy of being called "creative." But this is the site that is constantly apologizing for pirates and claiming that shutting them down is censorship. Someone has a very low standard for work. By this measure, the kid sleeping in the back of the classroom deserves an A for "creativity" because he's farting and creating sulfur dioxide.

    But I'm well aware that this team is adding plenty to the Shakespeare and what are they doing with their work? They're COPYRIGHTING it and putting it behind a PAYWALL. If you don't cough up the cash, you won't be seeing it.

    And let's see how the author is repaying the public domain for supplying Hamlet. If -- and only if-- the Kickstarter yields more than $425,000, the book will be released under one of the more restrictive Creative Commons licenses.

    Here's how the author describes it: "As long as it's not for commercial purposes and keep the attribution, we are set. To look at this another way, what I'm doing is making all your future fan fiction 100% supercanon."

    Another way of looking at it is that you can remix it, but you can't make money like this guy did. That's not very fair, is it?

    Now I'm all for artists keeping their rights and releasing some things so this is okay with me. But I want to point out that you normally describe this as strip mining the public domain. Someone is taking material from the public domain and copyrighting for themselves. The CC license isn't exactly giving back. So be consistent.

     

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    crade (profile), Dec 19th, 2012 @ 3:41pm

    You mean there is no patent on representing a decision by providing different page numbers to pick from? What did the trolls miss it?

     

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  6.  
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    silverscarcat (profile), Dec 19th, 2012 @ 3:48pm

    Hey, bob...

    You lost another argument.

    How?

    I just looked at the Kickstarter page...

    NOWHERE is copyright or CC or anything like that mentioned.

     

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  7.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Dec 19th, 2012 @ 3:53pm

    Idea...

    Think I'd be sued for putting out a "Choose Your Own Helmet" line?

    My choice? Psshhhh, fucking dark, yo...

     

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  8.  
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    Marcel de Jong (profile), Dec 19th, 2012 @ 3:55pm

    Re: Re: Shakespeare is over-rated. -- Who here has actually read it?

    Out_of_the_blue probably reckons himself a modern day Don Quixote. Batting at windmills. (except then without reusing someone else's works, of course, because that's stuff from the devil)

     

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    Rikuo (profile), Dec 19th, 2012 @ 3:55pm

    Re: Uh, copyright DID help creativity.

    Shut the fuck up, crazy fool. I've taken a look at what you get for the ever increasing amounts of cash you might donate, and one and all, they are things you CANNOT pirate. The author here isn't selling the words in his text, he's selling scarce commodities. Thanks to that, he's made a cool half a million, and the book isn't even out yet.

    Plus I love the fact you're criticising Ryan here for "strip mining the public domain". That is EXACTLY what Disney has been doing for decades: taking words from the public domain, making their own versions, then safeguarding their copyrighted versions with ever harsher laws. How come you're not after them?

     

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  10.  
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    Zakida Paul (profile), Dec 19th, 2012 @ 3:55pm

    Re: Shakespeare is over-rated. -- Who here has actually read it?

    I read Macbeth for GCSE English Literature at school and enjoyed it immensely.

     

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  11.  
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    crade (profile), Dec 19th, 2012 @ 4:03pm

    Re: Uh, copyright DID help creativity.

    Whether he strip mines the public domain remains to be seen. Some, will try to block the original story from being reused (rather than just their version) once they have released their version of it. I don't think there is really any danger of that happening here.

    Anyway, whats wrong with agreeing with some of what the guy is doing even if you don't agree with every single aspect of the project.. can't you?

     

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  12.  
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    Rikuo (profile), Dec 19th, 2012 @ 4:05pm

    Re: Re: Shakespeare is over-rated. -- Who here has actually read it?

    Same here, for Leaving Certificate here in Ireland. Before then, I had never been a fan of Shakespeare, but through my English class, I grew to love his work. Just look at how many times new adaptations of Shakespeare, plays, movies etc take place every year and it shows you that copyright would actually harm such a phenomenon. Imagine if Shakespeare's descendants held the copyright as part of the estate to this day; just think of how few performances there would be if permission had to be asked first.

     

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  13.  
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    Rikuo (profile), Dec 19th, 2012 @ 4:06pm

    Re: Re: Uh, copyright DID help creativity.

    " taking words"

    should be "taking works". My bad.

     

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  14.  
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    Zakida Paul (profile), Dec 19th, 2012 @ 4:09pm

    Re: Re: Re: Shakespeare is over-rated. -- Who here has actually read it?

    It doesn't bear thinking about but that is exactly what is going to happen to Disney's works. Rabid copyright is going to (or is) rob generations of people of important cultural works.

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 19th, 2012 @ 4:18pm

    Re: Re: Re: Shakespeare is over-rated. -- Who here has actually read it?

    Are we sure it isn't Barbara Streisand? Signing with the name of her own effect?

     

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  16.  
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    RD, Dec 19th, 2012 @ 6:35pm

    Re: Shakespeare is over-rated. -- Who here has actually read it?

    And once again, Failed Artist OOTB has to chime in with his specious drivel, and miss the point yet again, so he cant get YET ANOTHER shot in at Mike and exercise his Raging Hard On he has for this site.

    Copyright isn't necessary. If no one wants your creative output, then either:

    a) get better or do something else creative that people WILL pay (attention or money) to you for.

    or

    b) you suck, get a job (the world needs ditch-diggers too) and stop trying to make EVERYONE ELSE pay for your lack of talent.

    The world doesn't OWE you a living just because YOU chose to try doing something creative. You ELECTED to go into this line of work, we didn't ask or demand you to.

    If you aren't able to give people a reason to want your stuff, TOO BAD, it's not the responsibility of the government or the public to support you.

     

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  17.  
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    Colin, Dec 19th, 2012 @ 6:53pm

    Re: Uh, copyright DID help creativity.

    They're COPYRIGHTING it and putting it behind a PAYWALL.

    Being totally sincere here: I missed this a lot. Thank you.

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 19th, 2012 @ 11:29pm

    Re: Hey, bob...

    You aren't viewing the world in "stereoscopic 3D copyright" glasses is the problem.

     

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  19.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 19th, 2012 @ 11:30pm

    Re: Re: Re: Uh, copyright DID help creativity.

    Both work!

     

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  20.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 19th, 2012 @ 11:31pm

    Re: Idea...

    Mines purple.

     

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  21.  
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    PaulT (profile), Dec 20th, 2012 @ 2:07am

    Re: Shakespeare is over-rated. -- Who here has actually read it?

    Even though you're still an idiot, I feel compelled to answer your question.

    Yes, I've read Shakespeare, and I greatly enjoyed Macbeth when I read it at school, and watching it on stage was one of my better memories of school trips. I also found the ending of Romeo and Juliet to be greatly affecting on different levels. I've had lesser reactions to other works such as Hamlet and Henry V, but I'd consider Shakespeare to be good even when he's not great.

    Beyond that, I *love* many of the adapted works based on his work - you know, the stuff morons like you want to keep charging millions to create even decades after an author's death? From Forbidden Planet (based on The Tempest) to Baz Lurhmann's version of Romeo & Juliet to the Hamlet episodes of Blackadder and The Simpsons, Shakespeare's influence is ever-present and important.

    But yeah, you were too stupid to understand it in school I guess, so it doesn't count? What a surprise.

    "I just can't find much NEW and internetty here. Certainly not the work itself."

    Certainly not the idiocy you obsess over writing every single day.

    "No, Mike, IF I ever want it, there's The Pirate Bay where all is free (unless it's physical)."

    So you admit that not only will you not participate in the creation of new works, but you'll pirate them after the work is complete? The truth comes out!

     

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  22.  
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    PaulT (profile), Dec 20th, 2012 @ 2:13am

    Re: Uh, copyright DID help creativity.

    Ah, paywall bob, still not understanding what Kickstarter is or how it works... and I see you don't understand CC licences either! Keep trying, maybe that rock on top of your shoulders will understand what other people are actually talking about!

     

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  23.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 20th, 2012 @ 3:49am

    It would be funny if a person could travel back in time and put his name on Shakespeare's works. Then he could travel back to the present day and see kids studying plays like "Romeo And Juliet" and "Julius Caesar" credited to him.

     

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  24.  
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    dennis deems (profile), Dec 20th, 2012 @ 6:14am

    I was skeptical until I read this slice of sheer brilliance:
    Also, instead of a play-within-a-play to trap the conscience of a king, there's an "an-adventure-is-chosen" book within this "an-adventure-is-chosen" book, which you read while playing as King Claudius reading this nested book!

     

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  25.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 20th, 2012 @ 8:58am

    Re: Shakespeare is over-rated. -- Who here has actually read it?

    "C'mon, Will's crap has been around 400 years now, you've had endless opportunity, but just never got around to it? Hmm."

    That's not at all what this is, it's about experience Will's "crap" as you not so eloquently put it in a new way. Chooseable path style. Since you obviously didn't RTFA.

    "The author has to spend almost nothing on promoting the work, I think that's key: he's leveraging those 400 years of name recognition."

    Actually, the author still has to promote the work, because as you pointed out there's 400 years of name recognition associated with said work, not too mention the fact that it is most definitely in the public domain. Meaning this author now has to put more effort into promoting said work in order to compete with all the other people promoting their copies of said work.

    Not too mention the fact that people usually have a pre-determined and set amount of funds to spend on entertainment, much less Kickstarter projects. So this author has to promote their work in direct competition to other Kickstarter projects currently going on. Not an easy task and one where there is definitely a lot of fierce competition.

    "Better tests of Kickstarter are in the unknown works of unknown authors. -- I keep tellin' ya, Mike, it's EASY once you've got a widely known name (here it's Shakespeare)."

    And this person is an unknown author, so that "criteria" of yours is being met. That they are using a story and characters created by a known author is an addition, not detraction, to the project.

    Your point is basically moot. What you want, or seem to want from Mike, is a guarantee to fame/profits. A specific business model/formula that literally anyone can use to make it big/hit the riches. There is none. There never will one. So stop asking for one/demanding one. You'll never get it. Ditto your "tell me how I can get a guarantee on my $100M movie" blah blah blah.

    "I just can't find much NEW and internetty here. Certainly not the work itself."

    Well, like bob, just because you fail to understand the significant of something DOES NOT mean it isn't there. Or to borrow a phrase from comedian Christopher Titus, "Just because you don't get it, doesn't mean it's not funny."

    The "NEW and internetty" part regarding this project is that A. it's being done using Kickstarter and B. a work that is in the public domain (MEANING IT IS AVAILABLE FOR FREE ALREADY) generated enough interest to raise nearly half a million dollars already (and there's still time left). That latter point is important because people like YOU say that no one can make money without copyright, in addition to saying that if people can get something for free (like say a public domain work) they'll NEVER pay for it. This proves both those presumptions/falsehoods... well, false.


    "Heh, heh: this seems to be one of your characteristic internal contradictions: "if you want in on the Kickstarter offering," -- No, Mike, IF I ever want it, there's The Pirate Bay where all is free (unless it's physical)."

    Well, OotB, that bit wasn't for douchebags/copyright maximalists like you. That was for people interested in supporting projects on Kickstarter, like me.

    Also, nice followup sentence you wrote there. So, despite your day in and day out tirade against pirates and rants and bitching against this site promoting piracy and supporting "grifters", you just said that you'll use something you deem illegal to avoid paying for products that you can't obtain physicially (non-scarce goods, like digital movies/songs/books/etc). Hmm. Nice to see your hypocrisy finally reveal itself. So I suppose you'll NEVER again piss and moan about pirates or grifters, right? Seeing as how you just all but admitted to being one yourself and supporting the latter through the use of said site (TPB). Well, perfect, so we should expect to NEVER see you comment here again, hypocrite. YAY!

     

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  26.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 20th, 2012 @ 9:06am

    Re: Shakespeare is over-rated. -- Who here has actually read it?

    "I just can't find much NEW and internetty here."

    The same can be said of you, boy.

     

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  27.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 20th, 2012 @ 9:10am

    Re: Shakespeare is over-rated. -- Who here has actually read it?

    " IF I ever want it, there's The Pirate Bay where all is free..."

    You read it here, kids!
    Out of the Blue freely admits he's a self-loathing PIRATE!
    (Since everybody else loathes him, it seems he's jumping on the bandwagon a bit late, as usual!)

     

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  28.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Dec 20th, 2012 @ 9:11am

    Re: Re: Shakespeare is over-rated. -- Who here has actually read it?

    So you admit that not only will you not participate in the creation of new works, but you'll pirate them after the work is complete? The truth comes out!


    Not a surprise. More often than not, when someone is is rabidly and single-mindedly fixated against a certain activity, they are engaging in that activity themselves and projecting their self-loathing onto everyone around them.

     

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  29.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 20th, 2012 @ 9:13am

    Re: Uh, copyright DID help creativity.

    "Someone is taking material from the public domain and copyrighting for themselves."

    So, you object to Disney taking various PD stories and trademarking and copyrighting them for themselves?

     

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  30.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 20th, 2012 @ 9:15am

    Re: Re: Uh, copyright DID help creativity.

    "They're COPYRIGHTING it and putting it behind a PAYWALL."

    "Being totally sincere here: I missed this a lot. Thank you."

    They're copyrighting their version of it.
    The original is still PD, and can still be used by anybody for anything...

     

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  31.  
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    PaulT (profile), Dec 20th, 2012 @ 2:04pm

    Re: Re: Re: Uh, copyright DID help creativity.

    ...and here we have the reason why some of us insist on replying to obvious trolls. They supply blatant lies and distortions, some people seem to still believe the..

     

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  32.  
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    btrussell (profile), Dec 21st, 2012 @ 5:34am

    Which is it?

    Who here has actually read it?
    "C'mon, Will's crap has been around 400 years now, you've had endless opportunity, but just never got around to it? Hmm.

    The author has to spend almost nothing on promoting the work, I think that's key: he's leveraging those 400 years of name recognition."

    So, which is it? No one has read it or 400 years of recognition?
    Make up my mind.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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