Research Blog Series: Monetising Free Content

Liz Dowthwaite presents her research exploring how creators of free online content are able to monetise their work, for our Research Blog Series


Internet culture as portrayed by
the webcomic ‘Nedroid’ by A Clark

Project: Monetising Free Content

Investigator: Liz Dowthwaite, University of Nottingham

What did your research aim to do?
The aim was to explore how creators of free content, specifically webcomics, are able to use social media and other internet tools to monetise their work online, at the same time as maintaining their ownership rights and combatting attribution and copyright problems. Online copyright law is a major issue for many in the creative industries. Independent artists often rely on sharing their work across social media and content-sharing sites, leaving them open to having their work stolen or misused. When this work is also provided for free, making a living becomes even harder.

How did you do it?
I carried out a series of 6 separate studies over the four years of my PhD: 3 questionnaires aimed at both readers and creators of webcomics, a series of interviews with webcomics creators, and analysis of projects on two different crowdfunding platforms. The first year was focussed on identifying issues of working online and so are most relevant to the work of CREATe. The remainder of the work looked at mechanisms of crowdfunding in the webcomics industry.

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Research Blog Series: Commercial Exploitation of Online Identity

Christina Emmanouil presents her research on the use by individuals of social networking sites for commercial purposes, for the Research Blog Series.


Project:  Designing for the commercial exploitation of online identity.

Investigators: Christina Emmanouil with Professor Derek McAuley, University of Nottingham

What did your research aim to do?
Develop knowledge about the self- presentation practices of individuals who use social networking sites for commercial purposes and highlight design opportunities that emerge in support of these practices.

How did you do it?
By focusing on a case study of book authors to conduct three empirical studies, an online survey, an online observation, and two co-design workshops. Authors were selected as they represent a professional group with the potential to fully operate within the Digital Economy by using online publishing platforms to publish books and social networking sites to independently promote them.

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Research Blog Series: Valuing the Public Domain

Kris Erickson discusses CREATe research on understanding the value of the copyright public domain, for the Research Blog Series.


Still from ‘Ever, Jane,’ a game using public domain material

Project: Valuing the Public Domain was a two-year knowledge exchange project jointly funded by ESRC (Grant ES/K008137/1), the UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO), and CREATe. The total funding was £104,000.

Investigators: Lead Investigators were Kristofer Erickson (CREATe, now Leeds University) and Martin Kretschmer (CREATe, University of Glasgow)

In addition, the project involved collaboration by Co-Investigators Dinusha Mendis (Bournemouth University), Paul Heald (University of Illinois) and Fabian Homberg (University of Southampton). The project employed a number of CREATe PhD student research assistants, who assisted with interviewing SMEs about their use of public domain materials and gathering data about the use of public domain imagery on Wikipedia.

What did your research aim to do?
Copyright policy seeks to balance the benefits of intellectual property protection with the benefits of public access to creative works. Despite more than two decades of scholarship on the concept of the ‘public domain’, the economic benefits of limitations to copyright remain under-explored. This project was designed to further empirical understanding of the value represented by the copyright public domain, by analysing its use in specific contexts. The two-year study focused on three specific contexts (use cases) for public domain works: uptake by creative SMEs involved in digital adaptation, Integration in creative projects pitched on the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter, and use by editors on the global encyclopaedia resource Wikipedia.

The project involved significant opportunity for knowledge exchange: the research team worked closely with colleagues at the UK Intellectual Property Office. Dr Erickson was seconded to the IPO in the summer of 2014 where he worked with colleagues Nicola Searle, Pippa Hall and Tony Clayton in the Economics, Research and Evidence unit and presented preliminary findings from the data collection phase of the project.

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Research Blog Series: Open Content Film making

Robin Williams reviews a University of Edinburgh project on Creative Commons and film making, for the Research Blog Series


Project Name: Open Film: Open Source

Investigators: PIs: Gian Marco Campagnolo and Robin Williams (University of Edinburgh). Research team: Evi Giannatou and James Stewart (University of Edinburgh) and Michael Franklin (Goldsmiths College, University of London).

What did your research aim to do?
The Open Film: Open Source study sought to resolve a controversy about the adoption of Creative Common (CC) licences in the film industry and its potential to establish open-content-film making (OCF) in a similar way to the success of Free/Libre Open Source Software (FLOSS).

How did you do it?
We sought to exploit the detailed insights available from contemporary ethnographic study-informed by the lived experience and attitudes of the actors and extend this longitudinally to gain insights into changing licensing practices with the uptake of CC within filmmaking. The first phase of the study examined how CC exponents and independent film-makers came together to explore the prospects for OCF. The second phase of the later research took as its central focus the practices of independent film-making and explored the extent to which CC was taken up. The central empirical resource comprises detailed ethnographic interviews with 31 filmmakers and others directly involved in open filmmaking across a wide array of independent film projects. This was supported by analysis of various documentary (online resources) and participatory materials; notes from open film festivals, remix cinema workshops and open culture groups’ meetings and conferences.

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Research Blog Series: OpenMinTeD

Thomas Margoni reports on the project aiming to develop a registry for text and data mining services and tools, for the Research Blog Series.


OpenMinTeD (Open Mining Infrastructure for Text and Data) is the H2020 e-infra project aiming to develop a registry for text and data mining services and tools. This will allow researchers, research institutions and data providers to find, use and combine resources for TDM purposes thereby enhancing the scientific playing field of the EU.

The project is run by a consortium of 16 EU partners. CREATe/University of Glasgow coordinates the legal interoperability activities which are conducted mainly within working group three (WG3). WG3 is formed by a team of more than 20 specialists with an interdisciplinary background under the scientific lead of Dr Thomas Margoni, and with coordination of Dr Giulia Dore and other CREATe fellows.

WG3 has been investigating, on the one hand, the causes and the degree of the limits imposed to text and data mining under the law of copyright and related rights – e.g., sui generis database right – and, on the other hand, the complex licensing framework in which the resources to be mined are set.

Regarding legal barriers, the main research questions attempt to determine which resources are protected by copyright and connected rights and the consequent possibility to use such resources in absence of a specific legal or contractual authorisation.

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Research Blog Series: Open Publishing

Continuing the Research Blog series, Estelle Dercleye presents her work exploring multiple aspects of open publishing.


Open Access Publishing Stakeholders event in 2014

Project: Open publishing

Investigators: Estelle Derclaye (PI); Giancarlo Frosio (postdoc) and Kenneth Wilson (doctoral researcher) University of Nottingham

What did your research aim to do?
This project examined the current trends, advantages, disadvantages, problems and solutions, opportunities and barriers in open publishing, and in particular open academic publishing

How did you do it?
Literature review, workshop and PhD thesis

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CREATe Sponsors Icepops Copyright Education Conference

An exciting new copyright education conference is taking place at the University of Liverpool on 3rd April 2018, with sponsorship from CREATe. Icepops is the International Copyright-Literacy Event with Playful Opportunities for Practitioners and Scholars.

The call for contributions is open until Monday 8th January and booking for the event is now available. CREATe are delighted to be sponsoring this event and we encourage colleagues to consider submitting an idea to present at the conference. The organisers are looking for lightning talks, world café style pitches, ideas for new games, posters and are also open to other creative approaches to copyright education – interpretative dance anyone? The keynote speakers will be Professor Ronan Deazley from Queen’s University Belfast and Alex Moseley from the University of Leicester.

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Research Blog Series: Crowdsourcing Orphan Works Clearance through EnDOW

Kris Erickson discusses orphan works and the EnDOW project for the Research Blog Series .


Project: EnDOW: ‘Enhancing access to 20th Century cultural heritage through Distributed Orphan Works clearance’

Investigators: Lead Investigator: Professor Maurizio Borghi, Bournemouth University (Director of Centre for Intellectual Property & Policy Management), PI (Glasgow): Kristofer Erickson (now Leeds University) & Ronan Deazley (now Queen’s University Belfast), PI (Bocconi University): Lilla Montagnani, PI (IViR Amsterdam): Lucie Guibault (now Dalhousie University)

In addition to the core research team, the project employs a number of PhD students and research assistants, who are assisting with tasks such as surveying the orphan works legislations of various Member States, compiling logic flowcharts and interviewing memory institutions about best practices.

EnDOW team. L-R: Maurizio Borghi, Kris Erickson, Marcella Favale, Victoria Stobo, Lilla Montagnani, Maarten Zenistra, Lucie Guibault, Simone Schroff and Aura Bertoni. (Photo Diane McGrattan)

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Call for Papers: ISHTIP 2018

ISHTIP (the International Society for the History and Theory of Intellectual Property) is inviting papers for its 10th Annual Workshop. The Workshop on Intellectual Property and Heritage will be held at the University of Roma Tre on 4-6 July 2018.

2018 marks the tenth anniversary of the establishment of ISHTIP, which held its first workshop in the Stationers’ Hall in London in March 2008.  The Stationers Hall, with its special place in intellectual property law and history, seemed an appropriate place to kick off an interdisciplinary society with a particular focus on the interaction of those two disciplines.  Ten years on, ISHTIP has deepened its interdisciplinary engagement providing a forum for an array of new disciplinary and critical theoretical perspectives.  Influenced by the idea of reflecting on the heritage of ISHTIP itself, and inspired by its location in a city that has a special place in the canon of Western heritage, this year’s workshop invites proposals for papers on the relationship between forms of intellectual property and heritage.  Continue reading

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Research Blog Series: Digitising the Edwin Morgan Scrapbooks

Continuing the Research Blog Series, Kerry Patterson presents a project that explores the issue of Orphan Works using the case study of the Edwin Morgan Scrapbooks.


Project: Digitising the Edwin Morgan Scrapbooks

Investigators: PI – Ronan Deazley (now Queen’s University Belfast), Co-I – Sarah Hepworth (Special Collections, University of Glasgow), RA – Kerry Patterson (CREATe, University of Glasgow)

What did your research aim to do?
Cultural heritage institutions are struggling to enable digital access to works in their collections when copyright owners cannot be identified or located. The problem of orphan works has been addressed in part by the EU Orphan Works Directive 2012 and the UK Orphan Works Licensing Scheme (OWLS), but our research explored the impact of these solutions and questioned whether they are fit for purpose. We aimed to address the need for better, more robust data about the impact that copyright has on digitisation initiatives, and provide research and guidance on orphan works and diligent search.

How did you do it?
The researchers adopted a case study approach and performed a rights clearance simulation on a sample of the Edwin Morgan scrapbooks, a collection of mixed-media works compiled by the Scottish poet between the 1930s and 1960s.

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