NOTE: Nasty Old People will be broadcast on September 2nd at 22.45 on SVT2.
Ever since the invent of the internet and the world wide web, copyright issues have been hotly debated. The discussions have often been extremely polarized: pirates versus copyright holders. A rather recent trend is that content creators are starting to look at alternative licensing models – licenses that complement the copyright laws and gives the content creators more freedom to determine HOW their creative output (videos, photos, texts etc) can and should be used. One of these licensing schemes is called Creative Commons, and that is a license model that film director Hanna Sköld used when releasing her first full-length feature film Nasty Old People. This film will be broadcast on Swedish national television (SVT) on September 2nd. This post will try to analyze why this is a huge step in the film production business.
How do you make money on “free” content?
Using a Creative Commons license means that you revoke some of the rights that are normally granted by the copyright law. As a creator, you can decide what other users can do with your material without asking for your permission. Normally this includes copying, distributing and remixing the content. A general concern regarding the use of Creative Commons licenses have been that it is hard to make money from content that you set “free” in the digital ecology: how do you make money on films, music or photos that you and other users distribute freely on the web?
One way for creators to generate revenue has been to use crowdfunding methods, sarcastically the pay-what-you-want model. Film director Hanna Sköld used this method when she, in collaboration with MEDEA researchers and students at Malmö university, decided to use bittorent technology and The Pirate Bay to distribute her film. But is relying on crowdfunding an economically sustainable model for film production? Film production is a venture that is a lot more expensive than, for instance, producing a music record. Sköld managed to “crowdfund” about three quarters of the bank loan of €10000 she was granted to finance the film production. Total production costs, if you include salaries for actors and the production crew, are of course a lot higher. This indicates that it is hard to rely solely on crowdfunding to finance a film.
Traditional film funding institutions
The bottom-line here is: can alternative implementations of copyright co-exist with traditional film funding institutions? Will these institutions give grants to film projects that aim at using, for example, Creative Commons licenses? Film-producers, of course, want to have as big of an audience as possible and more and more film-makers and culture producers use Creative Commons licenses to allow their audiences to share, copy, remix and distribute their creative content in as many channels as possible – the issue is how this practice is viewed by traditional film funding institutions. Is it a threat, or is it a possible way of doing things?
We might have witnessed a change
When the Swedish national television buy the rights to screen Nasty Old People, a Creative Commons-licensed film, they also buy into the idea of the economic viability of alternative licensing models. This is proof that another way of funding, producing and distributing films IS possible. This might also be proof that Creative Commons licensing can exist side by side with the traditional world of film-funding. What Hanna Sköld, MEDEA researchers and students at Malmö university started in October 2009 might have ultimately changed the film production business at its core.
Future – Granny’s Dancing on the Table
One of MEDEAs living labs, Living Lab The Stage, has continued the collaboration with Hanna Sköld and her company Tangram Film. The aim is to engage the audience/users in the production process of her next feature film, Granny’s Dancing on the Table. At this stage in the project, the audience have interacted with the script writing through Granny’s Facebook page. More updates on the progress on this project will follow.
Creative Commons Sweden describes this event as a historic one, “Kulturhistorisk händelse: Nasty Old People på SVT”
See our MEDEA Talk with Hanna Sköld, “Från konsument till medproducent”
Read more about Nasty Old People on SVT’s website “Frizon 2010 – satsning på svensk indiefilm”
Nina Paley, creator of independent movie Sita Sings the Blues talks about how her experiences of using alternative licensing models,“A free distribution case study”