The Creative Commons CC0 license is a powerful tool for controlling how an idea can be used. I decided to use the CC0 license because I needed the power it offers to achieve my goals.

What is the power of giving up your copyright, you might ask? To understand that I have to begin by clarifying my goals:

My goal is to establish the game of small disc golf.

I suppose that I could establish a company to make the game. I could contract with injection molders to make the parts I design. I could have packaging made with colorful pictures of people having fun with my disc golf game. I could try to get stores to carry my product. I could try to get people to try it at gaming trade shows, comic shows, anywhere people who like fun things might want to try it and possibly buy it. In short, I could spend literally all of my available time operating a company, hiring people as needed and financing it somehow until it finally turned a profit or I ran out of money and the whole thing came crashing down.

I could do that. But honestly, I’m in this because I love disc golf and because I think this is fun. Operating a company that could die and take my dreams with it, but consuming all my time in any case, does not sound like fun to me. It sounds kinda stressful.

What is my productive time worth to me? Well, my income for one thing. My social life for another. I can’t imagine it would improve my relationships.

Even if I ran a company, marketing is expensive. Advertisements, free products and promotions, building business relationships, legal fees, mailing lists, and on and on. It isn’t just a time sink, it is also a money pit. Marketing takes a lot of money.

If there is money to be made, everyone associated with delivering customers wants a piece of the action. For a new product the action is almost certainly dollars. For a mature product co-marketing might be enough of a benefit to both for dollars to be secondary. Maybe. There is always a pecking order among brands, even those that do not directly compete with each other, so co-marketing is probably going to be a delicate balance achieved by enlightened marketers at both companies. It isn’t going to be an opportunity for a small company with a bohemian product.

So, marketing would be expensive. And success would hinge on successful marketing if that is the route followed.

An obvious solution would be to prototype the game and sell it to a large game manufacturer or toy company, etc. That would mean they would define the game any way they wanted. Would they invite anyone to develop their own discs and throwers? Or would they try to corner the market so they were the only legitimate supplier? How expensive would the game be? That is the financial barrier to entry for trying out the game.

Sure, letting someone else run a business around the game would be easier for me, but would people play the game? What if it wasn’t popular right away and the company just dropped it. I wouldn’t be able to resurrect it because they would own it. The game would die the hard, copyright death of a product the owner does not want to make but which they also prevent anyone else from making. If someone else violates the patent and earns some money the patent owner can sue and take most or a lot of it away. Anyone considering it would know that and so it is the kiss of death.

To review, the choices so far are:

  • Give up almost all of my productive time whether I succeed or not, and possibly (or probably) fail leaving me in financial ruin and the game of small disc golf would not be established.
  • Sell the game to a corporation and let them take the risk, which if it fails dooms the game to almost surely not ever exist in my lifetime.

I’m sorry, but these choices suck.

Look at the immense cost of each of these and keep in mind that neither is very likely to succeed! Also, in both cases if I do not succeed the game ceases to exist. So, my essential goal is missed in both cases if the product is not viable pretty quickly. And, the longer one waits for it to become viable the more money would be lost if it is not. In terms of the cost, these are extremely high for something that is fun and I want to share with others.

If you can appreciate the immense cost I’ve laid out above, then you understand the potential value the Creative Commons CC0 license could offer to me if it meets my goal without any of the above costs. CC0 provides this third, and much better, choice:

  • Extremely low investment in terms of money, only as much time as I care to spend, no chance of financial business failure eliminating the game, much lower barrier to entry for people to try it out, 3D printable game that encourages community sharing and participation, distributed manufacturing for which I am not responsible.

That’s an appealing choice to me. I give up some things and I get some things and the chances of failure are very much tied to the chances that people will enjoy the game and specifically not tied to profitability.

I give up some things:

  • The vast riches that game inventors are known to reap
  • The power of money – I can either pay a media company to cover my game in which case I have control over whether and how often it happens, or I can try to entice them because it is interesting to their viewers in its own right, in which case I have no control over whether or when it happens. Money grants that control.
  • The right to limit who can make or profit from the game. As for profit: knock yourself out. I do indeed hope you are able to make some money. It should be much easier if there is a base of people who like to play. As for controlling who makes it, I cannot understand why I would want to do that. The more people who can play the game, the more established it is, by definition. My goal is to establish the game, so controlling who makes components is definitely not interesting to me. Quite the opposite, I need other people to make components, either with their existing manufacturing capacity or with their 3D printer. People with 3D printers can make small disc golf sets for their friends for the cost of filament and electricity.
  • The right to control the destiny of the game. I may have started Small Disc Golf, but if it catches on then the community of people who play it will mutually refine the game. A corporation would resist that. I welcome it. I’m much more of a maker than an owner.

CC0 holds power not only for me in support of my goal, but it is also a critical and effective assurance to others. It gives them the power of knowing that there will not be any negative consequences for their efforts if they get involved. There is nothing like nothing when it comes to offering no resistance.

Of course, I think it is pretty clear that without a lot of money or spending a lot of time marketing that it could take a lot more time for the game to become known.

After I’ve done more game testing I will begin some marketing and social outreach. At the moment I haven’t posted in any 3d printing forums nor any disc golf forums. I’ve just posted in my own social media so people know what I am up to.

I’m still in the game development phase of Small Disc Golf. I’ve made very good progress and have printed some working discs. I’m working on the thrower which also needs to work well for the game to be fun. I’ve made a web site that covers the rules and standards of the game and allows people to download 3D models for printing components. Hopefully by the time I am ready to begin marketing and socializing the game the web site will be thoroughly easy to use and people can try the game out if they or a friend have access to a 3D printer.

If my only motivation was to make money, the CC0 license would be anathema. It would essentially prevent me from making money and all of my time and effort would be “wasted.”

If my only motivation is to establish and share the game, the CC0 license is perfect. It guarantees that anyone interested can make the most of it without fear of being sued for their efforts. It reduces to zero the amount of money being made on the idea: anyone who insists is welcome to a share of zero dollars.

That effect right there will help weed out people and companies who are only concerned about dollars and who do not love or value disc golf in itself. I don’t have time or energy to weed them out myself, but they will self-select when they find out that this isn’t a money game for me. It’s a free, fun and fair game.

Up Next: Playtesting Discs