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Creative Business in the Digital Era

This is the title of a day seminar, organised by the Open Rights Group (ORG), to explore some of the ways in which the commercial / creative stakeholder can build and operate a successful business model based on free / open Intellectual Property. Now there are those filthy (to some) four letter words again, but seriously, can anyone explain this fascination with “free” and “open” when it comes to future business models in the creative industries?

Is it because the dawn of the Internet age has brought with it the hitherto unthinkable prospect of getting something for what we might consider to be nothing (e.g. a tiny bit of our time / attention / information)? This is especially true for some of those business models built on things like: Open Source, free software, Open IP and free content. The above mentioned seminar provided, among other things, three veritable case studies and examples of successful business ventures based on what ORG has termed Open IP. The industries covered include:

1. Publishing Industry – The case study of blogger / author, Tom Reynolds, and Friday Publishing (presented by Tom Reynolds himself) showed how he was able to turn his blog musings into a successful book, published by The Friday Project, by making available free electronic versions of the book, alongside the commercial printed version, using the Creative Commons license.

2. Music Industry – John Buckman, the founder of music label Magnatune, presented the case study of how his company used Creative Commons licensing to build a successful creative enterprise based on the concept of Open Music and principles / mechanisms like: variable pricing; provision of music ‘source code’; support for derivative works; and making free shareable music available for non-commercial uses.

3. Automobile & Media Industry – David Bausola and Rob Myers, the creators of cult sit-com, Where are the Joneses? presented a case study on how they developed a commercial media production model based on Open IP. They produced some 90 short films published via multiple web 2.0 channels like: blogs, wikis, Facebook, Flickr, YouTube and Twitter. The venture was funded by Ford and the output was published under a Creative Commons License that allows for sharing and even commercial reuse.

A common trend in the above studies is their use of Creative Commons licensing to implement innovative business models that may appear counter-intuitive to some; and rightly so, because we are in a time of change where even long established models often do not work so well (Also there is no mention of DRM). It remains to be seen if these examples will gain momentum, and more converts, to become mainstream practice instead of the unique one-offs that they are today. Do send in your comments and thoughts on the use of Open IP by creative businesses as a way for the future.

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Note: This post was previously published on my BCS DRM Blog, where you can find the original post, and reader comments, in the archives.

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