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Creative Careers in the Post Copyright Era - Jason Rohrer, Game Designer

Jason Rohrer is an independent game designer, musician, father, and creative thought leader. Not that any of that pays a lot...except in peace, hugs and a roof over his head! But he is making a name for himself in the independent, open-source gaming niche. And he's struggling with a new business model for creatives in the post-copyright era. (Which is in full swing, in case you haven't put 2 and 2 together yet). Here's an excerpt from his website that explains his ideas about independent production and distribution of creative fruits of our labor:

"I write software. This is my full-time work, and I have no other "job." Examples of projects that I have created include MUTE, Monolith, Transcend, and silk --- and these are only the projects that have been released during the past year," so Jason introduces himself.

How a creator will make a living post-copyright

"Now we come to the hard part. No creator who depends on copyright for a living likes to face the fact that copyright is crumbling. Making a living without copyright may seem impossible at first: how can a creator survive without selling copies? I will first examine the solutions that have been proposed so far.

Since the recent copyright debate has focused on the medium of recorded music, only one solution has been widely discussed. Musicians will make money the way they currently make most of their money anyway: they will play live shows. Since it is impossible to make a copy of a live experience, let alone distribute copies of that experience in a free fashion, musicians will be able to make adequate livings without copyright. And, if you place this means of making a living on the reliability and productivity spectrums discussed earlier, it measures quite well: musicians are paid ahead of time (at the ticket booth) for doing immediate, productive work (rendering a live performance on stage). Also, the amount of money made from a live performance is tightly correlated with how many people benefit from that performance (in other words, how many people are in the audience).

However, this particular post-copyright "solution" leaves most other creators out in the cold. Programmers and book writers cannot give live performances, at least not performances that will sell many tickets. The same goes, in general, for painters, sculptors, photographers, and graphic artists. During the recent copyright debate, a catch-all solution has been proposed for non-musicians: donations. These creators will supposedly eke out livings post-copyright with the online equivalent of the tip jars commonly used by bar and street performers. Of course, the online equivalents will work better, since an online audience can be so much bigger than a bar or street audience (if just 1% of 1,000,000 visitors give a $1 donation, we have already started approaching a livable income for a year).

On the productivity spectrum, donations are not an ideal way to make a living, since new creators still do their primary productive work unpaid in hope of attracting donations after their works are released, while established creators attempt to live on the current streams of donations while they create their next works. And, I hardly need to mention how poorly donations measure in terms of reliability: just ask any street performer." Read More...

Jason's website is and I hope that if you play his games, you'll do the honorable, visionary, creative thing...and send him a few bucks to show your support for his creative farming.

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