The "No Endorsement" Mark - A Simple Solution For A Complex Problem

by Ted Hope
July 11, 2011 3:00 AM
3 Comments
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"if there’s one thing the file-sharing wars have taught us, it’s that there’s more profit in figuring out how to let honest people do the right thing than there is in chasing down cheapskates who don’t want to pay up – especially when the anti-cheapskate measures make life miserable for the honest cits," so says Cory Doctorow, and he's come up with an interesting way to encourage fan merch of On Demand Objects (ODO), while making life simpler & better from those that inspire the action (generally the copyright holder).

Definitely read Cory's whole article, as it has great implications for filmmakers looking to extend their universe beyond a single product (i.e. film) or wanting to encourage collaboration among the community, but in a nutshell, Doctrow lays it out:

what if there was a mark that indicated that the creator hadn’t endorsed a product, but was still splitting the take with the upstream licensor. For example, if you wanted to make your own 3D modelled action figures derived from one of my novels and offer them for sale, you wouldn’t need to get my permission – you could just add the ‘‘no endorsement’’ mark to the product and send me a fixed percentage of the gross. Ideally, this would be a high percentage without being punitive, say 25%.

Here’s how that could work: tens, hundreds or thousands of fans with interesting ideas for commercially adapting my works could create as many products as they could imagine and offer them for sale through i.Materialise or Shapeways. There’s no cost – apart from time – associated with this step. No one has to guess how many of these products the market will demand and produce and warehouse them in anticipation of demand. Each product bears the ‘‘no endorsement’’ mark, which tells you, the buyer, that I haven’t reviewed or approved of the product, and if it’s tasteless or stupid or ugly, it’s no reflection of my own ideas. This relieves me of the duty to bless or damn the enthusiastic creations of my fans.

But it also cuts me in for a piece of the action should a fan hit on a win. If your action figure hits the jackpot and generates lots of orders, I get paid, too. At any time, we have the option of renegotiating the deal: ‘‘You’re selling so many of these things, why don’t we knock my take back to ten percent and see if we can’t get more customers in the door?’’ Setting the initial royalty high creates an incentive to come to me for a better deal for really successful projects.

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3 Comments

  • Kevin | July 12, 2011 5:30 AMReply

    @popcornflix. I think the solution to that problem is quite simple. Included in the " not endorsed agreement is a clause allowing the artist to dissapprove of a product in exchange for returning / not accepting royalty payments. Just knowing this clause exists ought to discourage such abuses of adaptations of the artists work. What's more, I would think any legitimate use of the original in a critical way would fall under fair use and not subject to being prevented by the artist anyway.

  • RON MERK | July 12, 2011 4:42 AMReply

    Here's the thing....and maybe this sounds a bit old fashioned, but I just don't see why I need to make films and projects that can be ripped off in order to sell more products to which the same thing can be done. Why don't we call file sharing exactly what it is, "unathorized copying and distribution of copyrighted works." Until the copyright law is thrown away completely, except as it applies to people with lots of money (like the studios) and I'm being ironic here, we need to obey the law. Why should I work so that others can enjoy my work without compensation? Oh, yeah, it's cool to get exposure. But one can freeze to death waiting for the response of these so-called benefits that allegedly come with exposure. I've seen the art house market for films, which once was vital, turn into the "festival circuit" for which no payment comes to the filmmaker, and half an indie film's potential audience is gobbled up. Exposure. File Sharing. You tube. Vimeo. We need to stop giving the cow away for free, or there will be no milk left at the end of the day to feed our baby (the next film we want to make). The old models are broken. This new model is full of holes and quickly destroying the ability of serious filmmakers to make a living. Do we want to turn filmmaking into hobby? If so, knock yourselves out, but as Samuel Goldwyn once said, "include me out." Ron Merk, Film Producer-Director-Writer-Distributor.

  • popcornflix | July 11, 2011 6:13 AMReply

    Clever idea, but it comes with problems.

    The main problem is that you lose control of your brand and leave its care in the hands of others.

    For example, if you make a gay-positive film that garners a lot of attention, a homophobic entrepreneur can market gay-bashing merchandise with a "no-endorsement" mark, taking advantage of the high profile of your project.

    Now, your property is tarnished, and you get the additional negative publicity of accepting money for the the homophobic depictions in the merchandise.

    Also, although I'm not an attorney, I believe once you issue a blanket license like this, you don't have much recourse against someone who uses it in a way you didn't like or expect.

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