Brainstorm logo ideas for self-serve licensing here

Yesterday, I posted a link to my new column on self-serve commercial licensing, a "commercial commons" idea that would allow makers to commercially exploit your trademarks and copyrights in return for a fixed percentage of the money they earn off those products. I've gotten a ton of email about this, and there's an interesting thread of people with ideas for a logo to put on products licensed under self-serve. The logo above comes from the excellent Skennedy.

Here's another interesting proposal from Grant Robertson:

I don't know if you have a logo in mind for this license but how about this one:


It is very simple and can be typed on a regular keyboard. The asterics represents a gear which represents making things. It simply says, "If you make stuff from my work then you have to send me money." It could be made fancier with nice graphics for printing or posting on a web site. But by basing the fancy logo on something that can be easily typed on a keyboard, it will make it easier for people to discuss and adopt.

Perhaps it could be modified to indicate how much a crafter should pay:


means, "If you make stuff from my work you have to pay me 15%."

I like the * as gear and * as wildcard crossover!

Do you have any good ideas for logos and license text? Hit the comments.


  1. Well, be warned: Licensing the use of trademarks willy-nilly, without the licensor doing a lot of follow-up work for the duration of the license is a good way to lose one’s trademark rights through abandonment, among other perils. Trademarks are very unlike copyrights, and just because you’ve got a good idea for one, you should never assume that it’ll translate into even a merely viable idea for the other.

  2. Suppose I make a song and use 10 samples which all have 15% royalty.

    I’d have to pay 150% to them.

    How is that going to work?

  3. Groz, it does lead to some interesting maths..

    1. How much of the original song/sample did you use?
    2. How much of your new song did the samples contribute to.
    3. Who decides whether a drum track is worth as much as a melody, or voice in terms of overall song contribution?
    4. etc.

  4. if the sample contains more than the standard “free/fair-use” amount, you’d commit to pay 15% of each new song’s revenues.

  5. I’m a big fan of *=XX%.

    And with regard to the multiple 15% samples, I imagine that an artist operating under this scheme would have to budget in the same way as any other artist, e.g. a builder of monumental sculpture doesn’t create something that uses more iron than she can afford.


    — MrJM

  6. #1 makes a good point, my first thought was that this could be good in music sampling (if labels adopted it). Obviously there would have to be some kind of solution to the above.

    I like the *=$ notation, though you might get several *=£ *=¥ variations.

  7. Grozbat: Total up all the revenues generated by each song that used the sample and multiply that by 15%.

  8. #1: You’d lose money, just as surely as if you licensed ten expensive samples the usual way and didn’t make enough from the record to pay them all off. Chances are that someone asking for 15% of profit for the use of a sample won’t get much return unless it’s so irresistible that everyone wants to use it, in which case nobody will want to use it anyway.

    Or you divide the payment by the length of the sample compared to the length of its source. So if you want 15% for use of your 60-second track and I sample 6 seconds of it, you get 1.5%. Then of course you could argue that I looped your sample 50 times and therefore owe you 75%. To be honest I’ve had enough of this, Grozbat, and I’ll see you in court.

  9. Meh. An asterick does not look like a gear. It looks like an asterick. If I saw *=$ I’d scan up in the document, looking for the * I missed.

  10. Just like CC, you want flexibility.
    I think you also want to base it on something more usual to the terms of sampling contracts, maybe mills. A mill is a thousandth, ten mills to the percentage.

    The outrageousness of 15% looks bigger if you express it as *=150m I’d imagine more usual would be something like *=.1m

    Flat fees make more sense in some cases.

    *=50$ – You can use my pic in your multinational phone ad or your band flyer, but it’s $50 either way.

    I wonder how you could express something like “That’ll be 5 cents every time you play the commericial.”

    The beauty here is that you have an open contract that you’ve signed half of. If the other party agrees to the term, they sign in and done.

  11. #1: sounds like you need to renegotiate prices for those extortionate clips. Talk to the artists.

    You don’t have a right to make your music in this system, you just have an easy way if you want to get moving past the legal clearing.

  12. Skennedy’s blue SSL logo uses the typeface Arial, which is essentially a copy of Helvetica “born out of the desire to avoid paying license fees,” as Mark Simonson puts it. ( A more inappropriate font for the current project could scarely be imagined.

  13. “a “commercial commons” idea that would allow makers to commercially exploit your trademarks and copyrights in return for a fixed percentage of the money they earn off those products.”

    That’s not a commons.

    It’s a protection racket.

    The idea is misnamed and misbegotten.

    Trademarks exist to protect consumers from inferior counterfeits, to licence them to goods that haven’t been produced by the trademark holder doesn’t make sense.

    To charge for the right to modify the goods you buy (which is what this amounts to) is diametrically opposed to the Maker ideal of “if you bought it you own it”.

    I think the best mark for this would be “M$”, as it’s the kind of “intellectual-property”-based rent-seeking that works so well to keep competition out of the market and to ensure than any newcomers can only ever be amateurs.

    Rather than trying to get rich by getting a percentage of lots of nothings, Makers should create a true commons of emergent brands and designs. That can best be created by something like copyleft to prevent people *and* corporations from cashing out.

  14. * = $


    “everything equals dollars”

    to the experienced command-line jockey. I’m not sure this is the message the Self-Serve License crowd wants to send.

    After all, “everything equals dollars” seems to be the mantra of the RIAA, MPAA, and other clueless, overly-litigious groups.

  15. I don’t know why anyone would want to use someone elses Trademark (other than to deface it, I’m kinda old school punk), the makers are getting a bit too mixed up with the fanboys here. Also I have to agree with comment #13 about the point of a Trademark being a certification of some kind of merit and not freely adoptable. Invent your own damn Trademark! If you want to set up a royalty collecting society (which is what this scans like to me) you would do well to imitate ASCAP and BMI, the big music royalty collection/distribution organizations. Of course, they’re in with the RIAA trying to shut down all the free freaky fun on the internets… All the goofy knock off/mash up stuff on the internet can’t hold a candle to the tons of visionary unique original stuff that is just as easy to find.

  16. @Mneptok – or it could be a brainblowingly profound Zen meditation on the fundamental namelessness of everything.

    As for accommodating rules such as ‘five cents every time you play your commercial’, we simply need to add more symbols.

    *{500}=$1 – you can play your commercial up to 500 times and it’ll cost you a dollar every time.

    *>100=(NY?25%:50%) – I’ll take 25% of each sale made in New York and 50% of sales made elsewhere after the first 100 units sold.

    *=$20!%>:) – 20 bucks per use unless a percentage of the profits go to charity.

    I could go on.

  17. Rob Myers, although I see where you are coming from, that’s only true in some respects.

    There are lot’s of cases where you are legally required to pay a licensing fee to use [whatever] in your product.. be that music for your film, the ability to include the Thinsulate® logo on the gloves you are making, some codec or other to make your new media app functional, or wanting to paint the likeness of Mickey Mouse or Donald Duck on your creche wall (yep, that’s true.. Disney sues creches*).

    There are definitely legitimate uses for an easy licensing system that bypasses bureaucracy. On the other hand, without the relationship that intrinsically must exist in a traditional too-much-paperwork scenario, it’s quite hard for people to keep track of their credits.

    This seems to be a trust-based scheme.. but I suppose if someone was going to steal your wok/credit they’d do it regardless, this makes it easier for the folks who want to work legally and give credit where it’s due. Kind of like reverse DRM, which tends to penalize only the paying customer.


  18. I don’t know why anyone would want to use someone elses Trademark..

    As mentioned, you might be using a component or material that is especially good, and want to advertise your product as such.

  19. So here’s what I’m thinking. Instead of SSL for Single Serving License, you could just use SS in the line of CC for Creative Commons. This would allow for more ease in making something symmetrical or aesthetically pleasing for a logo, and would avoid redundancy “Hey I’m using an SSL License.”

    The obvious downside of this would be the historical usage of the letters SS, but a properly stylized logo could hopefully avoid any potential complications.

    Here’s a rough idea I whipped up

  20. (slightly off-topic, sorry)

    A bunch of us over at the TorrentBoy Project are going to give this license idea a try in the coming weeks, once we work through the details. Right now we run a system where anyone can create new works in our “open source franchise”, but it’s limited because any commercialization requires someone (me) to approve things. We’re aiming to be fully “open”, so this SSL concept is really timely.

    The biggest issues we’re facing are how you deal with composite works (create a calendar of artwork… how do you allocate %?) and multi-generational derivative works. But I’m pretty sure we’re making progress. Just have to find a nutty lawyer and we’ll be fine.

    Anyway, if you enjoy bickering about the philosophies of open licences and intellectual property, please join in:

  21. In general I like this idea.

    How about a .org website where you sign up and input all the parameters around licensing the audio/photo/video/text (as complex as you want to make the parameters) and the official logo is generated, maybe with a QRCODE or bar code embedded in it particular to the URL.

    That logo is then put with the particular goods via the code provided from above. When clicked on by a potential purchaser it pops up the data on the costs from the .org site.

  22. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE do _NOT_ call it SSL. You are dooming yourself to obscurity by doing so. SSL = secure sockets layer. Nothing else.

  23. [“a “commercial commons” idea that would allow makers to commercially exploit your trademarks and copyrights in return for a fixed percentage of the money they earn off those products.”

    That’s not a commons.

    It’s a protection racket.

    The idea is misnamed and misbegotten.]

    Rob, while I agree when it comes to my copyrights, I think there is an interesting play possible with trademarks that may be worth exploring. I may have posted this idea on the packet in site already, I can’t remember ( )

    Let’s say I put a BY-SA license on some or all of my copyrighted works (I still have reservations on doing this with my photos depicting people.)

    Let’s say I develop a Trademark/logo that I reserve exclusively for myself. Let’s say I develop a second one that indicates that the work comes from me and that the person using it has agreed to may me a percentage of their sales or profits from my works “identified” by this second one. Let’s say I develop a third one that indicates that the work comes from me but that the person using it has not entered into any agreement to may me a percentage of their sales or profits from my works “identified” by this third one.

    This let’s my fans who decide to “purchase” any of my “logo” covered works choose how/if they want to support me. Directly, via another person who will send me on some of the funds, or via another person who may or may not send some my way. They could of course decide not to purchase and just get a copy from a friend.

    This presupposes we keep running a market for copies as opposed to finding a way to get paid up front before creation and / or release.

    all the best,


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