Commonly.cc – ransoming art and music into the public domain

Commonly.cc game dev garage sale

I recently spoke with Nick Liow, the founder of commonly.cc, a fascinating project which aims to provide a general crowdfunding platform to release art and music into the public domain (CC0). In its first trial two weeks ago, Commonly.cc raised $1000 in just a few days to release a bundle of game art assets.

This is Liow’s second experiment of this type. The first, Juice Box was a collection of five animations created by him, released into the public domain for $50. Liow explains that his experiment with the Juice Box enabled him to approach others on Reddit’s r/gamedev subreddit:

After I posted [juicebox], a bunch of game developers and artists were also interested … I put out the idea ‘hey, if anyone here wants to also do this as a bundle thing’, I just posted it on the gamedev subreddit. I did that a couple of times, and I got nine people in time.

Some of of the people who volunteered their assets were already friends of Liow’s, but a number of them were strangers. There appears to be ongoing interest – at least four others wanted to make it into the bundle but were too late. After the initial nine participants were selected, Liow decided on a share of profits (a “mostly iffy judgment call” on his part). The creator of Bombermine, with the most well known assets in the bundle, received 20%; Indie Squid, with three sets of assets in the bundle, also received 20%. After the Paypal transaction fees, Liow apparently retained no share of the revenues.

Interestingly, the Gamedev Garage Sale was set up so that anybody who pledged any amount would receive a full Creative Commons Attribution license to use the assets, regardless of whether the bundle reached its target. (Liow explains that this was a constraint of using Paypal and not having a method to refund backers if the target was not reached.) In the end, around 20% of donors chose to pay one or two cents — half of total donors donated a dollar or less. Liow “[guesses] that the people who were in it just for the assets donated a dollar or less.”

What makes this interesting is that half of donors people paid more than $1; a quarter of all donors paid between $2 and $10, and another 15% paid between $10 and $50. Two outliers paid $200 and $101 respectively. Both of these were unknown to Liow; indeed, while two of the top ten donors were friends of Liow’s, the rest were anonymous or not personally known to him. I asked Liow what sort of feedback he had received that could explain donor motivations:

A sentiment that was repeated a number of times was that “I don’t have any immediate use for it, but I like the idea”

Liow – and some of the people whose assets were in the bundle – were very surprised that the bundle only took four days to reach its target. Liow is now proceeding to turn commonly.cc into a general platform for crowdfunding assets into the public domain. Watch this space.

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