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

"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.