I have a world/universe that I wish to open up to other writers. However I am unsure how I should structure the licensing fees and rights of ownership over the world itself and what happens (basically things like in Forgotten Realms you can't just kill off Elminster)?

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    Do you have priorities about licensing? Is it important to you, for example, that you retain all copyrights? Do you want the writers to retain copyright over their work? Are your concerns strictly financial? Do you want the terms to be attractive to writers? Or will you be inviting specific writers to participate? You need to identify your priorities here. – Goodbye Stack Exchange Jun 22 '12 at 20:44
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    @Neil Sorry I didn't notice this until now. My copyrights would be mainly around not changing base structures or major characters in the shared world (i.e. not killing Eliminster of Forgotten Realms or not changing how a Wrap Drive works in Star Trek). As far as licensing I would like to get to a medium where there is a up front payment and less of a take of the sales or vice versa I think that is fair. I am not all about the money but I don't want to give it all away for free. It sounds like you have experience in this area so maybe a PM talk about it is in order? – OrionDarkwood Jun 27 '12 at 17:20

As Patches noted, play first, pay second.

I launched a shared story world commercial entertainment property, and I curate examples of others. It is possible to make money from a shared world, but the hurdle is getting folks to want to play in the world first.

You'll need to build a compelling world, lay out the rules clearly about how rights and revenue will be shared, and seed the world with quality content first. Money coming in your door is second (and may take many months before it actually does occur).

Take a look at the worlds listed at http://sharedstoryworlds.com and examine how they structured their legal agreements, revenue sharing, and copyright terms for some ideas about how your world could work. Look at how they have structured their world and the content inside it.

Also, take a look at Into the Far West. I know the creator behind that world, and he's pushing for something close to what you're describing (i.e., an entertainment IP people pay to play in). He hasn't fully rolled out that portion of it, but I want to point out how much he's already done to build and blow out the world.

Hope this helps, and good luck with your project!

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  • Excellent example of answering a question with your own site (and following the terms by disclosing your association) without astroturfing. Welcome to Writers and thanks! – justkt Jun 27 '12 at 12:46

Licensing fees
Do you own the rights to, say, Starwars or Forgotten Realms or Hunger Games or Twilight or anything that big? 'Cause if you don't, no one's going to pay you to use the universe. Think about it -- why should I, the poor starving writer, give you what little money I have, or have coming in, for something I can do myself for free? There's only one reason -- BFB. That's right, Big F-ing Brand. A brand that can take my piddly sales and jack them up to a couple hundred K worth of books sold, and put my name on the map. And all 'cause it has that little brand stamp on the cover.

I think you're thinking about it the wrong way. This isn't something you can make money off directly. What you can do is make a killer open source** world and an even better site that by game-izing it (like stackexchange did), draws in tons of writers to develop & use this open source universe.

**Note: do some kind of creative commons license that allows individuals to commercially use the universe, but corps have to pay

Rights of ownership -- wrong question again. the right question is:

How to manage Canon?
For that some ideas:

  • Everything published by a reputable publisher is cannon
  • Everything self-published that has greater than X # of sales is cannon
  • Something approved by the titans of your awesome-site-of-shared-world-building is cannon
  • Something with X # of non-titan cannonize votes on said site is cannon
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  • Can you add some more details on if I create a open source world then how do I make money. Open source makes money by tech support and specialized development. Or are you saying I need to create and give away worlds to build my street cred and then hope one of the BFB decides to hire me to write. – OrionDarkwood Jun 25 '12 at 15:11
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    @OrionDarkwood does facebook charge you for an account? Does stackexchange charge you for each question you post? Nope. (Er, actually I don't know if SE does. FB sure does, though) So yes, I do mean give it away. Except it's much more than giving it away, it's letting in hordes of people to play in your sandbox. It's building that community, who in turn build out that universe to a level that'll actually be cool. – Patches Jun 25 '12 at 23:17
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    And, at that point, ways to monetize it will present themselves. perhaps discrete ads, perhaps source books (ala table-top gaming, but set up for writing in the universe instead), and perhaps, if it gets big enough, and cool enough, and enough people have published fiction in the universe (for free!), then perhaps a BFB will come to you to license it for a game/movie/whatever. – Patches Jun 25 '12 at 23:20

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