Thursday 14 March 2013

Two More Stories of Access (and Creation): Veronica Mars and Semaphore Press

Following up on my last post, here are two more stories of access and creation.  Veronica Mars is a television series involving a young female detective played by Kristen Bell.  The television series has a strong and loyal following, but was cancelled after a few seasons.  Apparently, there were grumblings about creating a movie based on the television series, but nothing was happening.  Well, something has happened—in a little over one day via crowdfunding on Kickstarter over 2.7 million dollars has been raised to create the movie.  There are over 45,000 backers of the film.  Read more here, and hereThere are also incentives for various giving levels.  At the top, for one person who donates more than $10,000:

You will get a speaking role in the movie. Here’s the scene — Veronica is eating with the man in her life. Things have gotten tense between them. You are the waiter/waitress. You approach the table, and you say, “Your check, sir.” We guarantee you will be on camera as you say the line. Unless you go all hammy and ruin the scene and we have to cut you out, but that would be a sad day for all of us. Just say the line. Don’t over-think it. You’re a waiter. Your motivation is to turn over the table. In addition to appearing in the movie, you’ll receive a framed copy of the page of the script that includes your line. You’ll get an invitation to the premiere and the after party. You are, after all, in the movie. Think of yourself as Guy Fleegman from Galaxy Quest. People will surely want autographs. You’ll also receive the signed movie poster, the Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack, the digital version of the movie, the T-shirt and a pdf of the shooting script.

That actually doesn’t sound like a bad deal to me.  I wonder how much I would pay to appear in a new Star Wars movie—probably not as much as many other fans.  At the lowest gift amount, $10 or more, you receive a pdf of the script and updates about the movie.  Will Veronica Mars’ success change the game for filmmaking?  No, according to one Forbe’s author who points to the facts that the Veronica Mars project had a loyal fan base, a script and the buy in of Kristen Bell, the lead actress.  Great points, but I am a bit more optimistic--maybe with some tweaking it can change the game for some types of indie films. 

Semaphore Press is the brain child of Professors Lydia Loren and Joseph Miller.  Professor Loren is a intellectual property law expert, who specializes in copyright law at the Lewis and Clark Law School and Professor Miller is a intellectual property law expert, who specializes in patent law at the University of Georgia Law School.  Semaphore Press offers books for sale based on a suggested price:

What do you have to pay?
Each publication has a suggested price. We price full casebooks based on our belief that it is fair to ask a student pay about $1 for the reading material for each one-hour class session. Different schools use different calendars and credit hours, so we've settled on a suggested price for most of our casebooks of $30. We ask that you pay the suggested price either with a credit card (by clicking the appropriate link on our page), or by sending us a check, and then download a digital copy of the casebook. Note that if your professor has assigned, e.g., only 10 class sessions of material from a Semaphore Press book, then we suggest that you pay $10.

We have expenses that we need to cover. Our authors hope, and deserve, to receive some royalty revenue from the works that they've created. But we also recognize that law school is expensive. We've heard stories of students not buying the required books because they just can't afford them. These students - who want to learn just as much as those who can afford the books - borrow a classmate's book some days, read the copy that is on reserve in the library other days, and some days simply can't do the reading. We think that is not the best way to go about obtaining, or offering, an excellent legal education. Download the required reading and pay what you can, or what you think is fair.

Yes, you read correctly—you could pay nothing for their books.  And, I am sure that some choose not to pay.  How much do casebooks usually cost? Casebooks can cost as much as $180.  Semaphore Press currently offers three casebooks: Intellectual Property Law: Cases and Materials; Internet Law: Cases and Problems; and Interstate Compacts: Cases and Materials.  I have used the Intellectual Property Law: Cases and Materials book and I think it is excellent.  If you need a casebook concerning US intellectual property law, I highly recommend it.  And, I highly recommend you pay at least the suggested price.


Miri Frankel said...

In case you are interested in the Kickstarter funder who gave $10,000 for a speaking part in the Veronica Mars movie, he is Steven Dengler, co-founder of

Mike Mireles said...

So, not a super super fan of Veronica Mars, but a super wealthy fan of crowdfunding. Fascinating! I wonder if he'll auction the part off for charity if he can't participate. Thanks! Best, Mike