Liang Wu, Jason Zhao, Jon Rogers, Weilei Yu
23 October 2023
The world’s creative IPs (intellectual property) which includes everything from timeless tales to rich universes filled with stories, characters, art and music, were all conceived by creators like you. Regardless of your art form, communities of ardent fans are at the center of these IPs. These fans are not just passive consumers; they are emotionally invested in their favorite characters, stories, and universes. They have an innate desire to contribute to and shape the stories they fall in love with.
However, the conventional IP system was designed to handle only a small group of creators generating content to be consumed passively – a one way street. Fans who wanted to satisfy their repressed creativity settled on the internet as their home for fandom. For decades, the internet has encouraged fan contribution and collaboration via remixing, community lore and co-creation at an unprecedented volume (albeit informally). Despite these behaviors, the IP infrastructure and system has not evolved to keep up with the speed and scale of the internet today. Without IP infrastructure built for the internet era, the current state of creative activities on the internet remains disorganized and chaotic.
As a creator, it’s nearly impossible for you to track how your fans remix and extend your IP across different platforms like Reddit, Discord, Twitter, Fanfiction platforms and personal websites (just to name a few). This results in duplicate efforts because there is no easy way to build on top of existing work. This chaos will be further exacerbated by generative AI technologies ushering in a world of endless content. Additionally, creators like you cannot easily authorize and encourage open collaboration without incurring steep legal costs to create bespoke licensing agreements, or risk losing control of your IP. It is equally challenging to co-create or collaborate with your peers globally (unless you work for the same studio), without a platform that can provide tools like licensing support, clear attribution, and automated royalty split. In the status quo, contributors (fans and professional creatives) who want to build on top of your IP, both formally and informally, have no legitimate way of doing so.
Story Protocol’s vision is to create an ecosystem where you own your IP and can easily enable your fans and contributors to expand, remix and compose on top of it. We are building IP infrastructure for the internet age, for creators like you to empower your community to build on top of your IP, all the while enabling you, the original creator, to retain ownership and control of your work.
Evolving IP into a Platform with Network Effects
By building a creator-and-contributor centric system that encourages participation and ensures clear IP ownership, Story Protocol helps creators evolve their IPs into a platform with network effects, where contributors play a critical role. In software platforms, network effects take place when each participant that joins an ecosystem adds incremental value to the whole ecosystem. For example, most modern social media platforms like Instagram and TikTok are powered by network effects and grow in value as more users join the network. In contrast, the traditional IP regime resembles a siloed system that views fan contributions and interpretations as copyright infringement, creating friction between creators and their contributors.
We believe communities that form around a specific IP (like a cinematic universe, a timeless story, a hit series, etc.) can exhibit network effects similar to tech platforms. A creator can seed the foundation for their universe, then welcome contributors from anywhere in the world to produce derivatives, spin offs, new adaptations, or art. All of these aggregate contributions generate new attention for the IP and entices others to become active participants. As more contributors extend and build on top of the IP, the IP grows bigger and attracts even more contributors to join the community – a virtuous cycle.
In a world of endless content and razor thin attention spans, the most successful IPs will be the ones that convert their fans from passive consumers to active contributors.
To realize this vision, we aim to support a rich ecosystem of third-party developers building on top of Story Protocol to provide complementary tools and services encompassing crowdfunding, capital formation, IP discovery, licensing modules, authentication, and community growth. These tools and services will allow creators – artists, writers, musicians, and filmmakers, for example – to unlock new growth opportunities that were only accessible to established entities. With Story Protocol, you can tap into a global pool of creative talent while retaining control of your IPs.
A Creator’s Journey On Story Protocol
Let’s say you're a creator with a vast universe teeming inside your mind. This universe is full of unique characters and intricate plotlines. You believe there are fans out there who will share your enthusiasm and passion. But as a creative, your challenge is turning the universe that is inside your mind into reality with limited resources. How do you find other collaborators? How do you set the rules of engagement with them? How do you reward collaborators for their contributions?
On Story Protocol, you might start by compiling a “world bible,” a comprehensive guide that outlines the key elements of your universe. In the world bible, you define the key characters, items, artifacts, plots and any details you want. This serves as the foundation of your narrative universe, providing necessary information for yourself and potential collaborators.
Since you have true ownership over the IP, you can decide how to collaborate with different types of contributors, opening new pathways for them to build on top of your IP.
For example, a professional writer, who conceives a compelling side story for one of your secondary characters will be able to license this character on Story Protocol, based on terms you set. This writer can then create a licensed derivative work that is inherently tied back to your character. As more creators and fans engage, this side story might develop into a full-fledged universe that others want to contribute on top of, similar to The Mandalorian inside of Star Wars. When a contributor creates a derivative IP, they will own their creation, but they will also abide by the licensing terms they agreed upon (e.g., royalty terms).
In another instance, let’s consider a fan who falls in love with your characters and wants to help expand your narrative universe with additional storylines. They propose the storylines and you decide whether they are accepted into canon. Regardless of the parameters you set, each contribution to your IP will be transparently tracked and attributed to its rightful author. This ensures that contributors can be recognized (and rewarded, where applicable) for their work.
While these are just a few examples, Story Protocol’s infrastructure and the applications built on top of it opens the door to a myriad of opportunities where fans and collaborators can enrich the original IP while you, the original creator, maintains ownership and control.
Our goal isn’t to dictate arrangements between creators, contributors and fans but rather give them the tools (supported by a 3rd party developer ecosystem) to formalize their contribution and provide clear attribution.
The ultimate quest for IP owners is to turn casual consumers into active participants. To create a defensible moat, you must empower a growing base of fans and contributors to actively participate in the evolution of your IP’s ecosystem. This cycle of creation, collaboration, and expansion further extends the value of the IP. On Story Protocol, every IP universe will have the potential to morph into a self-sustaining, continuously evolving community.
Story Protocol empowers you, the creator, to tap into the collective creativity of a global network of fans and collaborators. It doesn't matter if you're a widely recognized name in Hollywood, a promising director in Bollywood, an innovative mind in Nollywood, or a creative tinkerer in Iowa. We believe everyone can create, contribute and benefit from their unique ideas beyond what traditional avenues allow.
The implication of this is enormous – the next Marvel won't be born from the boardrooms of traditional entertainment and media conglomerates, but from a global network of passionate creators and fans. It will be the result of numerous tinkerers and experimenters coming together on the Internet in a grassroots effort, using tools built for the speed and scale of the internet.
In this world, creativity will only be limited by your imagination and an internet connection.
Thanks to Liz Tingue, Scott Kominers and Drew Garrison for the suggestions and inspiration.
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If you are a creator and the potential of Story Protocol excites you, we’d love to hear from you.
Express your interest to join our community here: Community Interest Form
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