Maybe it’s because Lawrence Lessig is on my mind–he’ll be speaking at Pitt this Thursday–but I have been thinking about the history of copyright changes. From the casual approach to authorship in Shakespeare’s time to our current complex and litigious attitudes, the relationship between authorship and copyright has been becoming more complex over time.
However now there are major authors rebelling–and doing great work while doing so. Joss Whedon, of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly fame, had an idea during last year’s writers’ strike. How about a internet musical? Since much of the contract conflict was over how writers should be paid for online distribution, he wanted to experiment with the medium. He came up with Dr Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. The metrics for its success are well publicized but what I found fascinating quote from the above-linked article was the new profit model Dr Horrible respresented. (Joss Whedon was the producer for Buffy, Fillion played Captain Malcolm Reyolds on Firefly:
Joss Whedon It did start out as kind of a political statement. As we got into preproduction, and the strike was over, it was more about ”Okay, we didn’t have our chance to make a bold statement, but we still have our chance to make this.” And now it’s sort of come full circle because people are talking about it as an Internet event, as a business model, as all the things that we had hoped for back when we were still carrying our picket signs. We believe, yes, it will be profitable. It’s not I am Legend, not bang out of the gate, ”Woohoo! Studios take note, we’ve all become billionaires in 30 minutes.” More just like it’s just going to keep going until, yes, we can pay everybody off and then there might be a little more there.
Fillion It’s a brand new deal. The people who created it are the people who are in control of it. It’s such a weird thing, an incredibly cool thing. I think a very interesting peek at how I think things are going to start to be: the future of entertainment, I believe.
This is obviously not the first time artists have turned to the internet to distribute content their usual distributors were being difficult. However what is super-neat about Dr Horrible is how clear the profit model appears. The actors did not get paid during production. It was obviously a labor of love for all of the cast members.
But Joss Whedon promised the cast he would try to pay them from online sales–through iTunes mostly. I watched it over Lilly’s shoulder this weekend and I watched a few clips on YouTube to confirm I wanted to purchase it. Then, driven by the knowledge that there were cast members waiting for me to buy it to get paid, I went and spent 6 dollars on iTunes to buy the whole 45 minutes musical. And it made me feel better about spending money on music than I have in a long time.
Go Joss Whedon!
John Lennon – “Reality leaves a lot to the imagination.”