The Next Star Wars Should Be Open Source

When I was 10 years old, I accidentally committed an intellectual property theft against poor George Lucas. Giddy with the euphoria of Star Wars, I wrote my own script for Star Wars part 3-- this would allow Lucas to make his sequel then they could do mine :D. It was all of the good screenwriting that you would expect out of a 10 year old (but likely better than anything Uwe Boll has ever done). It was fan fiction.

When Star Trek : Next Generation and X-Files were at their zenith of popularity, people uploaded screenshots, sound bytes and the like. You could trick out your copy of Windows 95 with all of those beeps and whoops like you were manning Worf's weapons console. Then the lawyers got involved. Those beeps and reworked pictures of Locutus were intellectual property. What people were posting for nothing and downloading for nothing-- these nuggets of digital gold were costing the cashstrapped Mom'n'Pop shops like Paramount and Fox ([insert picture of a weep Rupert Murdoch in a hobo outfit]-- sorry, please do that mentally: I don't want to do it for real and have Murdoch's goons beat me).
People get their fill of media and then it overflows into pop-culture and social cribbing. You watch Star Trek, you talk about it at your coffee break, then your tap your name badge and say, "beam me up!" and your geek friends get a chuckle. The media gets life support from its fans and the ways they carry out their homages to their fave fiction. When you cross the line into downloading extra bits for your computer or your wallpaper, you can run afoul of corporations who spend decades wringing their properties. Maybe you are only going to use the material for non-profit personal and non-commercial use, but the sources get slapped down and shut off. The last time I went looking for a sound effect it was like I was searching for the Holy Grail (the Holy Grail may be a trademark of the Disney Corporation).
Pop culture isn't supposed to be a mult-generational lock-down of intellectual property. It's supposed to be milked for profit and then let out to pasture. Sherlock Holmes, Robin Hood, Ivanhoe-- so many properties are alive and well and unowned by anyone.
People are making videos to pay tribute to their favorite topics but if they're like me, they're afraid of The Man as embodied by the authoritarian "this is your own work and not a copyrighted yadda yadda yadda" warnings and scare off anyone who lends more than two notes from the Imperial March.
There are lots of talented people out there with some serious horsepower tethered to their keyboards. Scriptwriting, post production, CGI, sound engineering: most people have as much processing power as Spielberg needed to making the dinosaurs rampage Jurassic Park. There's free software out there like Audacity; cheap software like Adobe Premiere Elements. Geeks are bristling with the hardware and software they need. They're also a forward facing lot who rail against authority. Geeks need to look to the future but they need a rallying point that won't get them arrested and their collection of Janeway GIFs confiscated. They need Open Source. They need the Creative Commons.
People said that nothing could compete with the lasting appeal of Star Wars or Star Trek, but since those franchises emerged many more like Harry Potter, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Avatar. Tomorrow's crowd pleaser is waiting to become popular. What if the next popular source of catch phrases didn't come out of Hollywood? Like minded creators could build a shared world controlled and fleshed out via wikis. 3D modelers could build ships and aliens then post them for animators to use. Scriptwriters could create captivating stories. If you like the franchise, you can make your own installment. Like the 11 Star Trek movies and 500+ hrs. of ST:TV, there are clunkers and faves-- the same would happen with stories based in a Creative Commons world.
The best thing: this can be commercially viable. What would a TV station say if they could run 48 minutes of well crafted programming ready for ads and do it for free? The gap between $0 and the going cost of 1 hour of TV is wide and if the fanboys are doing it for the love of their self-made franchise they would be happy with the residuals. Collections of seasons of TV are crowding out the movies at your DVD store. A Creative Commons series could still be collected and distributed for the masses of users who do not want to fiddle with Bittorrent or push their faces up the screen to watch a blocky Youtube video. Best of all-- when a creator make their tale from this shared universe they aren't likely to get a cease and desist from corporate attorneys.
Look at all of the crap that Hollywood churns out. Can't some shut-ins with Lightwave and some free time do better? I know they can and I wish they would.
The benefits could be an explosion of new franchises. The lawyers wouldn't have much to do, but Hollywood schmucks could still tap in for their share of the pie. How many million dollar websites are run off of freebie copies of Apache and MySQL? They still make money and so could Hollywood. Heck, it's Creative Commons: they could create their own productions based on these shared worlds.
Is anyone doing this already? Are people building a shared universe, a sandbox where anyone can play and bask in the glow of Creative Commons?


Here's a list of Creative Commons material to get you going.

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