Marketplace License Updates

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Image from PhotoDune

In 2013 we have some big plans to upgrade the user experience of our Marketplaces. Some of the changes will be small, some large. Some are UI related, and others are just about the experience. I’m excited today to announce one of the first changes for the year—an overhaul of our licenses.

We received a lot of great feedback last year from authors and buyers about the licenses. This was done through a combination of face to face, skype and email conversations, forum threads, and surveying. The general consensus was that the licenses were hard to understand and created confusing application scenarios and edge cases. Moreover, authors felt that in places the licenses didn’t match well to our pricing model.

In short, not a great user experience.

The team has been working hard to improve the licenses, in several phases.  Earlier last year we clarified a few things in our old licenses, such as when and how items could be used in other stock items. The next phase is now complete, and it’s a pretty big set of changes. Here’s what we’ve rolled out today:

(1) Clearer Language

The new licenses—regular, extended and tools licenses—are written for humans as well as legal experts. We’ve taken a lot of time and effort to make the licenses clearer about what you can and can’t do with them, and more readable in general. That said, there’s always room to improve and we’re interested to hear feedback.

Personally, this is the change that I am most excited and proud of. User experience goes beyond a site’s interface, and I’m really happy that the language of our licensing is heading towards the place where all our legal wording should be!

(2) A Tools License

Items that could be thought of as ‘tools’ (where the item is used to create another work) were not addressed well in our old licenses. Examples of tools are Photoshop add-ons such as brushes and layer styles, 3D software extensions and plugins, and fonts. The use case for these types of items was poorly shoe-horned into our old licenses. We’ve now broken these out as a separate and complete license that matches what a buyer needs to do. The Tools license has been attached to the relevant categories, and in the future we’ll need to look further at the pricing we apply in relation to this updated license model. So stay tuned for further updates on that front.

(3) A Licensing Landing Page

We’ve created a new legal landing page to explain the licenses, show what rights are or aren’t granted in simple table form, and quickly link to the terms. It’s a simple UI change that should aid greatly in making the licenses easier to use.

(4) Clear License FAQs

Although the new language makes great strides to clarifying the licenses, there are still lots of implications, examples, edge cases, and opportunities for further clarification. We didn’t want to package every single thing into the license text as that would have made them longer and harder to read. Rather we have created a set of clear FAQs that will help you work through specific situations when the need arises. If you see something you think should be clarified in the FAQs please let us know!

(5) Removal of Extended License > Use in Stock

One of the most divisive issues in our licenses was that we had previously included in the Extended Licenses the right for a buyer to use the item in creating another stock item. This came in two forms – Limited Stock and General Use in Stock, depending on how major the repurposing or usage was.

We spent a lot of time looking at this issue and concluded that it added a huge amount of complexity to the license terms, might have caused some authors to opt-out altogether of extended licenses, created pricing problems, had potential for licensing issues in the items being resold and was not necessarily a major revenue generator for authors. For this reason, the Extended License from here on no longer includes these terms. This results in a far simpler Extended License that is focused on the paid end usage of an item. For example the use of a 3D Model  or music track in a game made available for sale.

For authors who did make use of extended licenses when creating stock items, you can still purchase a Regular License and use an item in your preview (but not in the download files). For example, a photo can be purchased and used to demonstrate a flyer template in the preview, but not be placed in the download file (something you previously could do if you had purchased the Extended License). As a reminder to authors, in your preview on an Envato Marketplace you can also use a watermarked item from an Envato Marketplace without purchasing a license.

If you’re an author and want to use another author’s item in your larger stock item (as part of the download) it is still possible to make your own informal direct arrangements with the other author.

(6) Removal of Extended License > Web Hosting Services

Previously in the Extended Licenses we had a provision for applicable items to be used in a walled garden web hosting service scenario. This term was a little unclear and rather than create additional complexity we’ve taken it out and added an FAQ. Now, where a buyer needs this ability, we can facilitate a discussion with the relevant authors.

What’s Next?

Although today’s changes are pretty major, they are just one phase of an ongoing licensing project. At the end of the day the Marketplaces are all about selling licenses. We know that authors in some Marketplaces have some specific feedback about how our licensing needs to be changed to fit better to their items. Our next phase will involve collecting that feedback and looking at our options towards  making the licenses more industry specific, using this work as a foundation to build on. We will also be potentially looking at new, separate licenses for advanced uses like the stock usage that we’d previously lumped into the Extended License, as well as multi-use and developer licenses.

If you are an author who had previously opted out of the Extended License, I encourage you to consider opting back in. You can do so by clicking through to the “Item Licenses” accordion tab, under the “My Settings” section of your Marketplace author dashboard.

We’re committed to ensuring that our licenses are good for authors, good for buyers, and good for the community. It’s a surprisingly complex area, so we are approaching it iteratively. And in this approach, your feedback—from whichever of those three groups you fall in—is incredibly valuable. So if you have feedback about the changes, and suggestions for further improvement, we’d love to hear from you in these forum threads. If you are a ThemeForest author wanting to discuss using other items in your themes, head here. For all other questions post here.