Author Using Kickstarter To Offer His Book To The Public Domain, And Help Other Creators To Do The Same

from the needs-better-production-values,-but... dept

I was recently alerted to an interesting project and organization seeking to get more new works into the public domain. It’s been started by Aaron Pogue, who self published some books last year, selling well over 100,000 copies, and allowing him to not just quit his job, but to start an entire organization focused on helping content creators get paid to put their works into the public domain. The goal is to use systems like Kickstarter and others to allow fans to support the organization, called The Consortium, to pay them a salary — just like a normal job — for which they can then create content to release into the public domain.

Pogue is kicking this off with an attempt to raise $30,000 for the third book in his trilogy. If he hits the goal, he’ll release the book into the public domain, allowing anyone to do whatever they want with it. Make a movie out of it? Go for it. Do a fan edit of it? No problem. Whatever you want, once it’s in the public domain.

That said, it’s not clear if he’ll make the goal, though it is an interesting project. I’m wondering why it hasn’t raised that much and I have a couple of theories: first, the production quality on the video with the Kickstarter project isn’t great. I know this isn’t always easy, but for some reason, projects with better quality production seem to just do better on Kickstarter. The other thing is that I’m wondering how many of the buyers of Pogue’s first two books in the trilogy even know about this offer. In fact, I wonder if this is one of the limitations of relying on a platform like Amazon — in that it can put a wall between an author and his or her fans.

Either way, I’m really interested in these types of projects. And it’s great to see people like Pogue out there — a successful artist — not just explaining that copyright isn’t “the only” way to make money as a creator, but almost certainly not the best way to make money. And then to take that even further, and to help other artists make money without relying on the crutch of copyright, is a very cool thing to see, whether or not this particular Kickstarter campaign succeeds. In the meantime, though, if you would like to show some support for this type of project, check out the Kickstarter campaign and see if you think it’s worth backing.

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Comments on “Author Using Kickstarter To Offer His Book To The Public Domain, And Help Other Creators To Do The Same”

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Pjerky (profile) says:

Other uses for Kickstarter

I apologize if this is too off subject from the above story, but I would like to get some thoughts from others on this. I promise I won’t do this kind of comment too often.

Over last weekend some friends and I competed in a hackathon where we came up with a cool app. In terms of building the app we won’t need a lot of money to support it. Just some for servers to support it and maybe app store fees to get the app up.

What it will need money for is advertising and getting the app to be used widely. Its one that won’t work unless people use it.

So I was thinking that this might go good on Kickstarter, but I don’t know what I could offer to those that fund it. Its a pickup sports app with lots of ideas attached to it.

Does anything think this is good for Kickstarter? Any ideas as to what I could offer backers?

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Other uses for Kickstarter

You’d definitely have a paying customer in me. I’m always looking on the web for local pickup basketball/volleyball games. I can’t believe that at no time when I was doing all this did I think that a mobile app would make the perfect repository for that kind of information.

Seriously, I think this is a BRILLIANT idea….

G Thompson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Other uses for Kickstarter

If someone when knowing about the idea states

“Damn.. why didn’t I think of this”

you know you are on a winner!

Brilliant idea Pjerky, and this could be incorporated into a lot more than just baseball – another conceptual based logo instead of baseball for worldwide sales might be an idea.

I’m thinking chess, street cricket, touch rugby/footy, marbles, hopscotch, tic-tac-toe, the uses are endless.

Have a search on Morguefile for some free stock images (personal or commercial usage)

Pjerky (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Other uses for Kickstarter

Thank you @G Thompson. We have actually discussed a huge number of games that we could add to this. Things like billiards and poker, even Apples to Apples could be fun to add to the list.

We will probably start it off with outdoor sports and then work out how to best do indoor games.

We are also concerned with the safety of our users and want to avoid any unsafe (especially criminal) situations arising. So that is something on our minds as we work this out.

Also thank you for the link. I will try to keep the Techdirt community informed, but I think it may be another few months before I will have the first edition ready. Hopefully it won’t take that long though.

Cerberus (profile) says:

Re: Other uses for Kickstarter

How about these:

– After one year, you get a nice map displaying with coloured dots all the games that have been organised through the application.

– Pjerky comes to your game to cheer you on and brings beer afterwards (or scones and tea if it’s cricket).

– A game of Pjerky’s favourite sport against/with Pjerky and his friends.

– Same, but with Pjerky dressed up as a woman.

– Privileged access to some kind of sports ground/hall where you normally can’t get into without paying or waiting, in your area.

– A choice between a good tennis racket, golf club, bat, helmet, whatever.

– Some kind of specially themed phone (meh).

bob (profile) says:

Well, there's the sucker factor

I’m a big fan of Kickstarter because it’s like a Paywall, but better. It’s totally tilted toward the creator and that can have both advantages and disadvantages.

In this case, I think the terms of the deal are so unfair that only a few are taking the deal. Think about it. You can cough up the cash, or just wait for some starry-eyed dreamers from TechDirt-land to come along and pay for you. Then you get complete access to the work for free!

No one has an incentive to step forward and everyone has an incentive to wait and hope someone else to step forward.

Economies fail when the incentive structure is built this way. Some call it the mattress in the road problem. Others have worse names. But no one wants to be the sucker.

Amanda Palmer’s campaign, however, is different. If you don’t cough up the cash, you don’t get any of the special prizes. The people who pay money aren’t played for suckers.

Say what you will about the copyright model it (1) generally forces everyone to pay a relatively equal or fair share, (2) forces the producer to shoulder the risk and (3) encourages creators to really polish their work because the buyers will judge a finished product, not a dreamy video promise.

I’m sure all of the content creators wish that everyone would use Kickstarter and all of the folks out there would pay before the musician booked the studio, but we need to be fair and realistic. I would rather wait for reviews of finished products and I’m sure that most users would feel the same way. Kickstarter can be unfair that way. It’s pretty anti-consumer. I’m glad people are willing to take a risk on watches and things, but we need to remember that the consumer is being asked to shoulder the risk that it will all turn out okay.

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Well, there's the sucker factor

“So why don’t you explain how it’s the opposite.”

Well, this will be tough since it’s so complicated, but I’ll try:

1. Paywayll: a roadblock requiring pay for access to already produced content/products

2. Kickstarter: a platform requiring pay for creation of AS YET PRODUCED CONTENT

In other words….the freaking opposite….

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Well, there's the sucker factor

Please, for the love of God, learn what the frigging word means!

Kickstarter is not a paywall, because nobody is being *forced* to pay! Don’t want to pay for the content up front? Fine, don’t. Kickstarter isn’t a paywall in the case of the very article you’re posting your idiocy to, for example, because if it’s successful I can legally obtain the book without paying a penny – the exact opposite of a paywall. I don’t have to have donated to benefit from the end result.

It’s really not that difficult. A paywall blocks access to content, Kickstarter is there to fund content so that it exists in the first place. 2 totally separate concepts.

G Thompson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Well, there's the sucker factor

If you don’t pay, you don’t get the product.

hmmmm I wonder.

1. I make an offer to purchase something,
2. The seller accepts my offer on the condition I pay up front with cash, cheque, or creditcard
3. I pay
4. I receive product
5. profit.

Sounds like a standard store based contract of sale to me. Could also be called pre-ordering, layby (Think in the USA it’s called lay-away??), investing in company prior to receipt of goods.

It seems that kickstarter is the same as any other selling forum, and therefore not a ‘paywall’ unless you are stating that every form of sale anywhere is also a paywall with the exception of maybe bartering, though the consideration is also included in bartering just not as cash as the means of exchange.

No wonder you are called Bob.. it’s short for dicomBOBulation isn’t it?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Well, there's the sucker factor

“No one has an incentive to step forward and everyone has an incentive to wait and hope someone else to step forward.”

and no one has an incentive to contribute information to Wikipedia.

No one has an incentive to donate to charity.

No one has an incentive to freely help others.

Oh … wait.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Well, there's the sucker factor

and Bob, why are you here spending your time typing all this stuff.

Either you personally and disproportionally benefit from IP law and that’s why you’re doing it, not because you believe in the public interest, and this makes any pro-IP claim you make suspect

Or, you believe that your viewpoints are in the public interest and you are freely contributing your time to advance the human race. Which defies your argument that personal enrichment is the only motivator to get others to contribute to the welfare of others.

jupiterkansas (profile) says:

Re: Well, there's the sucker factor

Here’s the problem with your copyright model: (1) Not everyone can afford to pay equally. If I’m rich and want to support something, I can pay more. If I’m poor, I often do without culture. Rich donors are why most symphony orchestras exist, and professional theatre, and many other forms of art. (2) forcing someone to take risk to produce art does not sound like the best idea from an artistic perspective. It limits creation to those who can afford it. Kickstarter can greatly reduce the risk for most artists. (3) your third point has absolutely nothing to do with copyright – and everything to do with your reputation and ability to grow as an artist.

I always decline the prize when I donate to Kickstarter. I just want the project to happen, usually because of the people involved, and I know the incentives are an extra burden on them. If you’re donating to Kickstarter because of the perks, then I question what they’re offering as their main project.

Torg (profile) says:

Re: Well, there's the sucker factor

Given that Tube had the exact same deal as this one and earned $40,000, the problem would seem to lie in this project’s execution, not in the basic concept of asking people to pay for something that will be freely available if it’s made. The one that sticks out to me is that, beyond saying that it’s going to be a public domain work, the page doesn’t mention a lot about the actual product, instead relying on the statistically unsupported assumption that the prospective backer is familiar with the earlier works in the series. Poor execution doesn’t imply a flawed concept.

Aaron Pogue (profile) says:

Re: Re: Well, there's the sucker factor

You make a good point, Torg. My first attempt at a KickStarter was aimed directly at my fanbase (and, specifically, at the narrow subset I could reach through my blog/Facebook). I figured they were the only ones who’d care.

That one barely squeaked by with a $2,000 goal, though. Admittedly, its purpose wasn’t quite so noble (it was just meant to fund production costs). We raised the stakes on this campaign with the specific goal of reaching a much wider audience, and then I neglected to introduce myself or the popular fantasy series to the new arrivals.

I appreciate insight, and I wholeheartedly support your conclusion. Whether or not I can make a campaign like this succeed, the model could still be sound.

TtfnJohn (profile) says:

Re: Well, there's the sucker factor

Please, oh, please, bob, explain how Kickstarter which exists to fund projects is, in any way, a paywall. Now I realize that, despite your “learned” lectures on copyright you may not realize that this goes on all the time just not as publicly as it does at Kickstarter. All those other ways provide special gifts to the largest contributors to any given project. So Kickstarter is no different as a fundraiser.

None of that makes it a paywall.

As for it being anti-consumer because you and I are being asked to help fund a project and them wait until it’s done to see if we (or someone else) likes it that’s what happens all the time now.

As for your endlessly repeated three points on how the current copyright regime works all three of them are bullshit, pure and simple.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Well, there's the sucker factor

You’re an idiot.

Paywalls kick in after a certain amount of viewing.

There’s no incentive with a newspaper to keep paying for what may be bad content, yet with Kickstarter you are have a clean and concise picture of what you are gaining by giving money.

Apples and oranges you morose motherfucker.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Well, there's the sucker factor

This is the standard ‘free-rider’ analysis, which is not a completely good model (too homo-economicus) — people actually contribute to various things when the model suggests they would not.

Copyright points:

1) That copyright demands payment in a ‘fair’ way is actually a defect not a merit. Everyone wants the product to different degrees and so ideally we would want each to pay accordingly different amounts.

2) We probably want to share risk.

3) That buyers buy a finished product is a sub-optimal flow of information: it means the producer will in general make things the buyers do not want and only find out afterwards — which is economically wasteful.

Also, we ideally want to maximise free copying since it is a costless way to add value — which of course copyright restricts.

Consequently, a Kickstarter-like fund-and-release structure seems closer to the economic ideal than copyright.

Aaron Pogue (profile) says:

Re: Other uses for Kickstarter

So far, it doesn’t work at all. The organization isn’t funded yet. But our business model is centered around a Renaissance-inspired mentoring model.

So we’d have Master-level artists who are responsible both for producing new art, and for training up the Journeymen (who are producing new art and training up the Apprentices). An artist’s salary, then, is based on his or her current level.

Rikuo (profile) says:

Bob, you just called Kickstarter a paywall, explaining how a paywall is where you have to pay to receive goods…then say how Kickstarter is NOT a paywall in that others can pay for the product while you don’t, and still receive it.

Which is it?

Just so we can understand…what’s so freaking horrible about a book being released into the public domain? Go on, I’d like to know.

bob (profile) says:

Re: Re:

There’s nothing wrong with releasing a book into the public domain. People do it all the time. But this guy is insisting on $30,000 before doing it. Doesn’t sound particular noble, does it?

And it is a paywall, just a different kind. I predict the author will have trouble because no one wants to be the sucker who actually pays. Everyone has an incentive to wait and hope some other sucker coughs up the cash.

Aaron Pogue (profile) says:

Thanks for the Mention

Thanks for the press, Mike. We’re fans of your coverage of copyright problems.

Everyone else, I’m the same Aaron Pogue from the article. Sorry I’m late to the party, but I only just learned about it! I’ve already found the discussion pretty…interesting.

I’ll be happy to answer any questions you might have.

Cory of PC (profile) says:

Re: Thanks for the Mention

OK I know I’m late to this as you were, but I do like to say that I really like what you are doing here. Sadly I wish I could help you with your Kickstarter, but I’m flat broke at the moment (and even if I had any money, I don’t have an idea on how to convert it digitally).

Still, as a writer in the process of working on a story himself, seeing that you’re offering the chance to allow authors to have their works publish in the public domain (even yours), I’m now considering doing the same with my work once I’m finish with my writing. I never thought I could do that… seeing this has sparked interest and I’m very excited in learning more about this sort of release.

Again, I wish I could donate to your project. The only thing I can do now is wish you luck and hopefully things work out for you in the end. And if I do save up some money, I’ll buy all three of your books!

Aaron Pogue (profile) says:

Re: Re: Thanks for the Mention

As I mentioned on Twitter, I just discovered, and I’m excited about it!

As to your other questions…we’re back to the old open-source-software conversation about the difference between free-as-in-speech, and free-as-in-beer. That’s also an answer to an objection someone else raised below (about us offering a KickStarter reward for a bundle of e-books that could be bought for $13 individually).

This campaign isn’t really meant to get consumers free stuff. It’s meant to get artists free material. We’re asking art-lovers to patronize the production of new art.

We do still sell the book products on Amazon (albeit at a much lower price than traditional publishers might ask). The proceeds from those sales fund our organization.

Perhaps KickStarter could prove a reliable alternative, and we could stop selling products. Perhaps could serve that purpose. At the moment, Amazon is a much easier way to achieve our goals, even with CC0 products.

Anonymous Coward says:

I’m just going to explain for current readers and any new ones what bob’s definition of a paywall is. I’m basing this on everything he’s ever said up until this point.

bob: The definition of a paywall is as follows, anything that requires you to pay for it in order to get something in return (be it the ability to read an article, an actual physical or digital product, etc.)

So yes, bob’s use of the term “paywall” means if you have to give money towards something (or better said, if you give money towards something… it DOES NOT have to be forced, if you do so willingly or grudgingly, etc) then you have just run into a paywall.

Obviously, for those of us with anything even considered a “normal” or “average” amount of intelligence, this is not true and know that this is not what constitutes a paywall. But bob is anything but normal or average.

Carlton Davis (profile) says:


I read the article about Aaron Pogue(Sp?) kickstarter campaign, looked at his video, and even contributed, but I see he is a long ways from his goal. The article mentions his video as not being too good. I have a video that was professionally done, but I am not pulling in donors like I would wish. I thought I had reasonable gifts. I am not looking to put my book in the public domain. I wonder what else I should have done to get donors. If you have any thoughts I would appreciate hearing them. My project is:

Aaron Pogue (profile) says:


Hey, Carlton. I understand your frustration. It’s something of a chicken-and-egg problem. To get more than hobby money out of KickStarter, it seems like you already need to be a pretty well-established business.

For our part, we had some money to spend on video resources, but what we lacked was time. By the time we started on the KickStarter campaign, we had to choose between moving ahead without fancy graphic effects (like even cover art), or postponing the book’s release so we could make a more impressive video.

Our hope was that the public interest angle would generate enough response to make up for the rushed production. It hasn’t. We sent out press releases to hundreds of sites a couple weeks ago, and they’ve only been picked up by two real news sites (a publishing-industry site where the other writers hated my attack on copyright, and here at TechDirt). The press from those two sites was enough to gain us about 15% of our goal, but we’d hoped for follow-on publicity from dozens more sites, and that hasn’t come through.

By comparison, we ran a campaign back in December for book 2, where we were only looking to cover production costs (our goal was $2,000), and we just barely managed that at the last minute. We went a lot more aggressive this time, banking on the publicity angle, and it fell through. We could have asked for a much smaller number, but that probably would have resulted in even less press attention.

Which probably means you’re right back where you were. Build a platform, engage in social media, find ways to keep in direct contact with the fans you do pick up along the way, and eventually you’ll be able to direct-market to enough people to make a KickStarter successful.

In other words, KickStarter doesn’t actually solve any of the start-up problems. It just makes an easy way to request and collect cash once you’ve solved them yourself.

Carlton Davis (profile) says:

comment on my comment

Thank you Aaron for your comment. I have been following all the rules and working my contacts hard, but I think I made two fundamental errors. 1. I have asked for too much money. I started out with a much bigger budget and scaled back, but even this figure is probably too much. 2. I decided to go with kickstarter instead of Rockethub or Indiegogo. I choose kickstarter because it has a larger profile, but the all or nothing clause gave me hesitation. If I had to do it over again I would go to Rockethub because you get all that you raise.

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