We’re shutting down our non-profit organization, but the site will remain.

In the next few weeks, we’ll be shutting down the 501(c)(3) non-profit organization associated with this web site. The site and all its posts will stay online; time permitting, we may make new posts or even run some projects. However, it’s been a long time since I personally have been able to devote serious attention to QCO as an organization. The overhead of managing the finances, filing a non-profit tax return every year, and so on, has gotten to be too much. I’m busy co-running a free-software company and doing other things; it’s time to admit that there are only 24 hours per (Earth) day.

We (the Board of Directors) have agreed to divide QCO’s assets among our Artist in Residence Nina Paley (beyond the directed donations already in our Artist-in-Residence Working Fund, that is) and a few other good causes whose work is in line with our mission.

I founded QuestionCopyright.org in 2007 with the goal of encouraging people to think freely and creatively about how to distribute cultural works in ways that respect and support artists, audiences, translators, and other potential authors derivatives — ways that would encourage distribution and sharing, instead of causing artificial monopolies and restriction. As we pointed out in our very first post, copyright was not invented to support authors. It was invented to subsidize publishers, at a time when publishing required high up-front investments in arranging metal moveable type, cloth or flattened tree pulp, and page-binding materials. But that economy — which for centuries defined not just distribution but the very forms of material culture — is obsolete. Today we have a worldwide network that can copy at zero marginal cost; it makes even less sense now than it did in 2007 to fund artists by restricting the spread of their works.

The past sixteen years have seen a growing awareness of this, and an increasing number of artists are successfully inviting their audiences to support them directly via crowd-funding sites and other similar platforms. This is a natural evolution and QCO doesn’t take any credit for it. If we’ve motivated a few of those artists to leave the monopoly-based system and — even just for some of their works — join their audiences in freedom-based distribution, then we’ve done some good. There is much more we’d like to do, but that would always have been the case. Eventually, it’s time to say enough.

I thank our Board of Directors and the many people who have contributed to QCO over the years in many forms: time, money, logistical help, translations of some of our most popular posts, and (not least) lots of encouragement. I especially thank the previously-mentioned Nina Paley, our Artist in Residence, who jumped forthrightly and very publicly into distributing her works entirely without restriction, and who has been saying “Come on in, the water’s fine!” to other artists ever since.

I would also like to thank Karen Sandler, who — long before we had an Artist in Residence or indeed much of anything else — generously served as QCO’s pro bono counsel, helping us get set up as a non-profit organization and obtain 501(c)(3) status from the IRS, among many other things. Karen is busy being the Executive Director of the excellent Software Freedom Conservancy these days, and stepped down from being our counsel many years ago, but her contributions until then were crucial, and I am remain grateful to her.

May you all have a happy 2024, filled with creating, sharing, transforming, and, most importantly, enjoying.

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