The Creator's Dilemma On Others Making Money Off Your Content
from the offer-it-up-yourself dept
A couple of folk sent in this story of Ryan Sohmer, author of the popular web comic Least I Could Do, where he complains about others “stealing” his content in iPhone apps. But, this isn’t the usual case of a content creator lashing out about “stealing.” Sohmer has built up a nice model in giving away his comics for free, and we even wrote about his anger earlier this year at the Writers Guild of Canada for trying to force ISPs to pay a “tax” to writers. On the whole, his views are quite progressive on business models and free content. But what he’s upset about here is that some others are taking his comics and putting them in fee-based iPhone apps, and thus “profiting” off his content, without his permission:
As a general rule, I’m fairly lenient with individuals using our content for personal use. You want to throw up a comic on your blog, use our avatars or wallpapers, that’s fine. That’s actually what they’re there for and truth be told, we appreciate you spreading the word.
Where I draw the line, however, is an individual lifting our entire comic archives, putting them in an iPhone app, charging 99 cents for it and putting their own advertising banners on each comic. Profiting off of our hard work without so much as a link back to this site. No justifying that, that’s ripping us off, plain and simple.
The sad reality of it, is that things appear to be getting worse. Almost every day, I receive a couple of e-mails telling me about a new app or aggregator that’s featuring Least I Could Do or Looking For Group.
Alex Winston, who was the first to send this in, asked what we thought Sohmer should do in such a situation, and wondered how those who are open to sharing their works should deal with cases where others profit from those works. We’ve actually discussed something similar recently, but to more directly address the question, I tend to think that the answer is to simply supply a similar offering yourself — and make it clear which ones are the official versions. Even if you’re giving away your content for free, if people want to pay for it, why not offer them a way to do so? And, if you make it quite clear which is the official version and which is not, most people will go for the official version, because they want to support the artist.
And, if you’re still offering your works for free, and yet others are making money off of some sort of “aggregation,” well, at some point you have to admit that perhaps it’s the aggregation they’re paying for, rather than the content itself, since they could have received the content for free. I recognize that it can seem upsetting at first if it looks like someone is “making money off of my content,” but rather than worry too much about it (since it’s not going to go away), the answer is to focus on doing whatever it is you can do to make sure that people know of ways to support you directly, and then it’s up to them. If someone else is somehow offering something better, then perhaps look into ways to improve what you offer as well. But, in the end, worrying about what other people do will only get you so far. Focus on what you can do.
An alternative option is that if someone is really doing something that is better with your content, you could approach them, and ask them for a reasonable cut of the revenue, noting that in exchange, you’d promote their app to your fans, as well. That would likely increase the number of buyers, and everyone comes away happy.