Getting Paid for Giving Away Art for Free: the Case of Webcomics

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Post by Liz Dowthwaite (Doctoral Researcher at CREATe & Horizon, University of Nottingham)


Figure 1 Internet culture as portrayed by the webcomic ‘Nedroid’ on Tumblr [2]

Webcomics are comics that an independent creator posts on the Internet for free [3]. There are thousands on the Internet at any one time. Some artists are able to support themselves full-time through their comics, and many make at least some form of income. The importance of the relationship between creators and readers in comics has been recognized and talked about for many years [6], with webcomics able to embrace Web 2.0 technologies for this purpose: “One of the greatest things about Webcomics is the immediacy, frequency and intensity of your interactions with readers. You can talk to them, and they can talk back” (p.104) [4]. Artists develop meaningful relationships with readers over time, forming extremely dedicated communities that are willing to spend time and money supporting them [1,4,5,7,8,9]. Alongside these critical relationships, artists must also manage the use of their work online, ensuring that their rights are maintained. We all know that illegal hosting of content is a massive problem on the internet, and whilst most creators accept that this is somewhat inevitable, webcomics communities have been known to take to the social networks in great numbers to protest when work is copied or re-posted without attribution. My PhD is concerned with how creators use social media sites to build these communities in order to support themselves, both in terms of their rights and in the sense of making money, and my research so far shows that they do make extensive use of sites such as Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr. The example of such a niche group as ‘webcomics’, who have been extremely successful and are only going from strength to strength, may be used to aid other groups and individuals who more and more are turning to the Internet to help them succeed in the creative industries.

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How I Stopped Worrying And Learned To Love Focus Groups

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Image from Hugh Hancock’s new film ‘Death Knight Love Story’

One of the Hot Topics in the big media / tech crossover world recently has been data-driven storytelling. Wired breathlessly reported that Hollywood gurus have reverse-engineered a “formula for success” from audience data. Netflix has revealed its ability to data-mine genres that they already know their audience will like.

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Research Perspectives on the Public Domain: Transcript and Presentations

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On 11th October 2013, CREATe sponsored a seminar on Research Perspectives on the Public Domain, co-chaired by LKAS Research Fellow, Dr. Kris Erickson and CREATe Director Professor Martin Kretschmer. A full transcript of the event is now available as a CREATe working paper. Slide presentations from the event can be downloaded below.

The event included brief lectures by six interdisciplinary scholars, both domestic and international, who made presentations regarding their research findings and addressed challenges related to intellectual property regulations as well as any impact on the public domain. By bringing together diverse, interdisciplinary research areas, the seminar aimed to better situate the body of knowledge and value of the public domain in current research. The goals of the discussion included: identifying opportunities for scholars to benefit from cross-disciplinary perspectives, leveraging these perspectives to narrow upon current disciplinary blind spots in humanities research regarding intellectual property regulation, and bringing socially important questions to the forefront via this interdisciplinary approach.

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A digital rights bill means nothing without basic state compliance

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This article is a reproduction of a post originally featured at The Conversation.

By Emily Laidlaw, University of East Anglia

More than 500 high-profile names, including authors, musicians and five Nobel laureates, have signed a petition to the United Nations calling for a bill of digital rights to be developed in the wake of this year’s revelations about state surveillance.

The petition, signed by Margaret Atwood, Tom Stoppard and Günter Grass, among others, condemns the mass surveillance that has been revealed over the last few months, starting with the NSA secrets revealed by whistleblower Edward Snowden. Titled A Stand for Democracy in a Digital Age, the petition says mass surveillance is an affront on human rights and treats every citizen as a suspect.

Down the road, it seems likely that Snowden’s revelations will be seen as the tipping point in the digital human rights debate.

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Creating a more open user and creator platform.

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Post by Mr. Dominic Price, Horizon Research Fellow, contributing to CREATe’s WP2A.

Online social networking is now in its second decade.  Sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Google+ are enormously popular: Facebook claims over 1 billion active accounts and an average of 58 million unique messages (Tweets) pass through Twitter every day.  The recent explosion in smart-phone ownership with their associated ‘app’ cultures has also fuelled the growth of mobile social networking with the introduction of apps such as Whatsapp and Snapchat.  We can see from this that online social networking is a popular and central activity to a large proportion of the global population.  This is not surprising: we humans are social animals with a need to communicate with each other.  Social networking augments our existing ‘offline social networks’, allowing us to keep in touch with people over great distances, share our experiences and associated content (e.g., photos, videos, soundtracks and reports), organise our social lives and discover new social networks that were previously beyond our reach.

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Reforming Formats: Bringing together Research and Practice

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– Post by Mr. Andrew Black (LL.B Hons, LL.M Distinction), CREATe Research Assistant, University of Edinburgh

Television viewers around the world have either watched or are familiar with local versions of hit television shows such as Who Wants to be a Millionaire?, Strictly Come Dancing, and, Idols. Formats such as these are widely traded in a global format market that is estimated to be worth billions a year. Individual formats have been reported to have been licensed for fees that can reach into seven figure sums. Such success, however, occurs despite the fact that the copyright law framework of most nations offers no direct legal protection for the formats themselves.

Berlin Photos from HIIG (9)Against this backdrop I recently had the pleasure of attending a workshop held in Berlin which aimed to bring together research and practice on this topic. The workshop, organized in Berlin jointly by CREATe and the Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society (HIIG), brought together leading academics and practitioners to explore the field over the course of two days. Speakers shared a mix of practical and academic perspectives on the changing production of formats, their protection, and the value of an international comparative approach to exploring both.

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‘Team Open’: Creative Commons finally finding its role?

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Post by Prof. Dr. Leonhard Dobusch, first published here.

Creative Commons licenses are essential to virtually all of the different “open movements”, which have emerged over the past two decades beyond open source software. In the realm of open education, open science and open access, Creative Commons licenses are the standard way to make content open to the wider public. Also in fields such as open data and open government Creative Commons licenses are widely used to make it easier for third parties to re-use publicly funded content.

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