Welcome to the Public Domain

I was hoping to time this better with other bloggers in a more broad announcement, but it looks like the idea is already out of the bag (see (Leo from Zen Habits, who jumped the gun). That’s okay, it’s the idea here that matters.

I hereby release all copyright on all written (non-comment) material on The Simple Dollar to the public domain.

What does that mean? If you want to reuse an article from The Simple Dollar in your newspaper, newsletter, or anything else, go right ahead. If you want to hand it out in your Consumer Ed class, print it out. If you want to edit it to suit your own needs, go right ahead. All written material on this site is now in the public domain.

Obviously, if you do use it, I’d appreciate some attribution (Trent Hamm) and a link back to The Simple Dollar (http://www.thesimpledollar.com/).

Why? Over the last few months, I’ve been reflecting a ton on The Simple Dollar, why I write it, and what I want to do with it. The more I considered it, I really began to realize that the whole reason I write The Simple Dollar is for you, the reader. That’s it.

I write so that someone out there who’s desperately scared about their debt situation might find an answer that they need, or the right piece of help at the right time. I write so that people who are in good financial shape have a place to bounce ideas off of each other, often taking what I write in an unexpected direction. I write so that maybe, just maybe, I can help the average person out there make a better decision or two about their money and then sleep better at night because of it.

By releasing all of the written content into the public domain, I have a far better chance of actually reaching people than I ever would keeping that content here and restricting the rights of people who want to share it. Maybe an article from this site will now show up in a community newspaper, where someone without internet access, down on their luck, will read it and get inspired to make a change in their life. Maybe something will show up in another web forum somewhere.

What about… There are obviously some downsides to this decision.

Losing revenue? Making money is very, very nice, but it’s not my biggest goal. If it were, I wouldn’t have abandoned most of my advertising a while back. Obviously, I greatly appreciate donations, but they’re not the end-all. I’d much rather have something I say reach the people who need it.

Fewer Google searchers coming to visit? If my information is out there in more place, more people will read it, not less.

Control over your work? If someone more talented than me can come along and spin my words into something great, go for it! If someone less talented than me takes my work and butchers it … well, then, they probably won’t build much of an audience anyway. If someone merely republishes it without attribution, at least the readers will get something of value out of the content.

As for the other issues I’ve thought of, they’re all so minor that they don’t even merit a notice compared to the value of helping people when they need it.

So, in summary, I release all written content on The Simple Dollar to the public domain. You can use and alter it in any way you choose without attribution or notice. Attribution to Trent Hamm at The Simple Dollar, along with the site’s URL, is appreciated, however.

Edit: Please note that this does not include reader comments. It only pertains to the articles themselves.

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  1. Diana says:

    I think this is a fascinating idea. I used to be controlling over my ideas, and want to keep them to myself – fearful that others would run with them. Which in several cases has happened before, but then I realized that by voicing my ideas I got great feedback and quicker results. Seems like a double-edged sword, but you are doing this for all the right reason. Thank you for having your content available to all. Bravo!

  2. Tom says:

    I hereby release my comment under the Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial license.

    This way I have some semblance of public domain, but no one can copy paste it to other sites and take ownership.

    (Someone actually said they refused to release their info under public domain because his wife had done so with some of her works of art and someone else copyrighted them somehow, never got the full story but creative commons is better)

  3. Mark says:

    Thanks Trent. I’ve been a long time reader of your blog and just started one of my own. You’ve been
    one of my favorite sites to visit daily. I admire your work ethic.

  4. I just posted a review of this blog at http://problogreviews.blogspot.com/2008/01/rules-for-financial-freedom.html
    please stop in and check it out.

  5. Trent Hamm Trent says:

    Once something is in the public domain, you can’t pull it out of the public domain. You can copyright your derivative work, however, but that doesn’t change the public domain status of the original.

  6. Bill K. says:

    Don’t be so quick to fall in love with Creative Commons, Tom. It has flaws too.


  7. Sylvie says:

    Trent, I’ve been reading your blog for a couple of months now, and it’s one of my faves, and I appreciate all the effort and good sense that you offer us, your readers. But I’m a published writer myself (the old-fashioned hardcover book kind) and an editor at a major trade journal, and I have to say I don’t understand this apparent trend toward giving-it-away-for-free-no-ego-attached thinking.

    As a writer, my words and ideas are pretty much all I (or any information professional) have to offer. Attribution is often the only ‘pay’. It doesn’t seem magnanimous to me to relinquish all copyright — it seems like self-abasement. Furthermore, it has never been easy for writers to earn a living, and throwing away copyright just simply foolish to me.

    And I have major issues with plagiarism; I see it all the time at the magazine I work for. People think that because something is in the public domain they don’t have to source it. That’s bad journalism. It has never been ethical to pass someone else’s words or ideas off as your own. Furthermore, I believe readers deserve to know the source of the words they’re reading; it’s how trust gets built. My 10th grade history teacher taught me that everyone has bias — that is, everyone has a point of view — and that it’s essential to consider that; it’s part of the fabric of the information, not separate from it.

    So I just don’t get it! Thanks for letting me have my say. Don’t worry, I’ll keep reading. :>)

  8. Michele says:

    You’re a class act, Trent.

  9. sunsail says:

    Holy sh*t, you too?!!?!?! :) rock on, guys!!!! You are collectively my heroes.

  10. Brian says:

    Wow, Trent. You continually impress me. It’s not often that authors are confident enough in their ability to generate new content to make a move like this. Kudos to you and the rest who have decided to do this. Rock on.

  11. Elizabeth says:

    Wow! I’m a new reader/subscriber, and you just earned a lot of respect for me. I like your attitude a great deal, and I’ve really enjoyed reading and look forward to more in the future. Thanks!

    (I am unlikely to use your work as you describe because I’m a SAHM, but will be happy to recommend your site to friends for sure!)

  12. The Chef says:

    I really appreciate the idea Trent.

  13. dawn says:

    Trent this decision is good karma…

  14. holli says:

    Trent – I have loved your site since I first started reading a few months ago, mostly because of your honesty and that you obviously care about your readers. This new development shows me further just how much you care about helping your readers.

    Kudos to you.

  15. Eddy says:

    Never posted before, probably won’t post again.

    Just wanted to give some props to this post.

    Enjoy your blog.

  16. Shannon says:

    Dugg! Super cool stuff, here. :)

  17. K12Linux says:

    I would have gone with one of the Creative Commons licenses myself but I applaud your choice.

    I do hope a website doesn’t spring up which just automatically grabs all of your articles as if it were their own. Especially one which includes questionable advice along with the articles.

    BTW, Bill K, the author of the article’s linked in Slashdot was talking about photos only for items 1 and 2 (and even says for non-photo content CC is still great.) Also, the CC license can not be revoked which wipes out his 3rd gripe about CC.

  18. MS says:

    Sorry, Trent – I’m still going to send people back to your site. All that cutting and pasting is soooooo tedious.

    Seriously, thanks for letting us benefit from your ideas.

  19. Ryan S. says:

    Wow. This is a bold step. Good for you.


  20. Frugal Dad says:

    Awesome move, Trent. While I probably won’t reuse your exact material, I find myself following in your footsteps in terms of books I read, books I review, themes, etc. I guess it’s true…imitation is the greatest form of flattery. I hope you feel flattered!

  21. Krista says:

    I just came upon your site the other day when i was looking for an easier recipe for homemade bread. Thank you so much for what you have done here. I just got married and have been looking for ways to be better with my finances. Thank you for you site and your thoughts on life and money.

  22. partgypsy says:

    You lost me here, Trent. You got rid of your ads because you could not control the content of them and you did not agree with the content or message of some of them. As Sylvie points out someone can now take your information but put it in a book, blog, website etc that also includes erroneous information, advice you would NOT recommend, ads that can be harmful to one’s financial health, etc. Your writings may be published without your attribution or worse someone may present a hodge podge of stuff so you may be inadvertantly attributed to advice you would never say. As it is now in the public domain you have lost “control” of your writing. You have also made it much more difficult to make money off of it as well.
    I think it would have been more prudent to keep rights of your work but share it generously.

  23. Bill K. says:

    K12, very true… I was just pointing out that not everything is perfect.

  24. Chris says:

    Wow. Very nice move. Well done.

  25. Michael says:

    Congrats – a wonderful gesture!!

    also, @Bill K. – there are no flaws AT ALL pointed out in those articles on the Creative Commons linked from the Slashdot page.

    The only flaw suggested is that people steal copyrighted stuff — nothing to do with CC licenses (as several commenters pointed out on Slashdot). The articles are just click-trolling.

  26. Enric says:

    Great initiative, Trent. I hope more people join you in this perspective over writing and intelectual production. Thanks!

  27. jm says:

    “As a writer, my words and ideas are pretty much all I (or any information professional) have to offer. Attribution is often the only ‘pay’. It doesn’t seem magnanimous to me to relinquish all copyright — it seems like self-abasement. Furthermore, it has never been easy for writers to earn a living, and throwing away copyright just simply foolish to me.”

    I have to disagree. As a writer, you have your words and ideas, AND you have your expertise and reputation. Expertise and Reputation are worth alot more than your ideas, because they are ultimately what pays the bills. Most people will only have one or two killer ideas, *if they are lucky*, in life, but your reputation and expertise are something nobody can take from you (except you).

    Reputation and expertise gets you jobs, conferences, consulting gigs, endorsements, etc, all of which then build your reputation and expertise further leading to more growth.

    This is the core foundation of the open source movement in software, and there’s no reason why it can’t apply to other intellectual property as well.

    It is a gamble, to be sure, but as a software person whose work is invested in the open source ideology, I think its a leap worth taking. What’s more, I think its the logical direction society will move in because the idea of the rock-star millionaire artist media creator is simply not sustainable compared to the long-tail, where people like Trent can be the rock-star for their own niche.

    Trent, good luck. I truly hope this leads to some pays-money type of IP work for you, and I’m very sure that it will.

  28. m says:

    I’m not sure what I think of the relinquishing copyright concept, but I am curious about one point in the post:

    “The whole reason I write The Simple Dollar is for you, the reader. That’s it.”

    You really don’t write this for any other reason at all? Like hoping it will lead to a writing career for you, a book deal, numerous freelance gigs in magazines, etc.–since I think those are some of your goals? Or because of the enjoyment or knowledge or feedback you get out of it? (Or is that something that is simply a given and I am being too literal minded–which wouldn’t be the first time. My brain just works that way–I am very literal.)

    I blog because I want to help others too, but I also write for me–because I feel better after expressing myself, because writing helps me sort out my own thoughts, because I enjoy the interaction blogging allows, because blogging allows me to keep my ideas, links, etc. in one place that’s easily accessible and usable, because I can experiment with writing and observe the response in a low stakes environment if I wish to, because I can ask for help and advice easily through blogging, because it’s a good way to keep track of my progress and to help keep me motivated on my goals, because I LOVE writing and always have (ever since I was able to write that is) . . .

    You are really prolific on this blog and it seems that you take the time to do a lot of research and reading, etc. for many of your posts. It seems like is a lot of work.

    If it is really all exclusively to help others and not even remotely an effort to perhaps reach some of your goals and dreams or meet your own needs in other ways (again, these might be a given and an understood aspect of the process that you assume people recognize when you say it’s only for readers, but if not), then you could look at TSD as one huge volunteer effort!

    And in that case you are volunteering a lot of time consistently every day and that is truly admirable!

    I think yours and Leo’s decision is certainly an interesting one and I will be curious to see what changes you or others experience as a result. I tend to lean more toward “partgypsy”‘s position above upon first thouht, but this is an issue I need to give more thought to and don’t yet have a well thought out opinion on. I know there is much more to the concept than just that one view of it and I’m betting this is an issue that will arise more and more in the future, just as it is with music now.

    The choice is certainly a fitting one for this day and age. Copyright and traditional media practices are changing fast and your and Leo’s choice is a reflection of those changes and of the times. I hope this is a fruitful change for you and your readers.

  29. Chris says:

    so does this mean you’ve abandoned the plan to write a book based off your financial armageddon series?

  30. Trent Hamm Trent says:

    I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about what The Simple Dollar really is and what value I get out of it. I came to the realization that I’m doing this to help people above all else, and that almost all the time, choices that lead to monetization opposed choices that help people. So, I made the hard choice and followed what the real purpose is.

    That means giving my message as much reach as I possibly can, even if it means that some of my writings wind up in places I don’t necessarily like – it may be a candle in the dark for someone.

    Sure, the money is nice – I love it when good work is supported. But when I have to basically hamstring and restrict the spread of good financial advice – or couple it with questionable ads – then I would be really undermining the whole message.

  31. orta says:

    I don’t normally comment. But to me that’s the most kickass thing I’ve read on this in the past few year x

  32. moonimus says:

    Wow…just wow. What a brave and courageous step. This is a highly admirable decision.

  33. Trent: I am not sure what you are gaining by this – you don’t charge people to read your site. You might want to reconsider.

    Best Wishes,

  34. Aaron Stroud says:

    D4L, once something has been put in the public domain, it can’t be retracted. This post has already been documented on multiple sites (feedburner, google.com, etc), so it’s a pretty permanent decision.

    If Trent changes his mind at some point, he could stop new content from automatically entering the public domain, but that might be pretty tricky to do on this .com.

  35. db says:

    Perhaps it’s just me, but I don’t see the point to this.

  36. Betty Ann says:

    You are a very good young man…
    You were at different forks in the road more than once and you took the time to think and make very good choices in your journey in life.

    I commend you for being such a fine young man. .

  37. Tanya says:

    Nice! While not all writing/information can (or should?) be given so freely, I truly admire your desire to contribute as much good as you can to as many people without the need for credit. It is a selfless act that will undoubtedly do good. And for anyone who is arguing that your words will be plagiarized or mangled–alarm should be directed solely at those who would plagiarize without a second thought, and not at those who provide the words.

  38. mfonet says:

    A friend recommended this site to me after I started blogging about the books that I’ve been reading.

    Since then, I’ve visited this site regularly, looking for new books to read.

    I think this is a great idea. Attracts more goodwill and offering to the public domain doesn’t take away the fact that you owned the knowledge you have.

    I applaud your gesture!

  39. Ted says:

    Great, now you’ll have to change the name to the Simple Penny, since you just obliterated your efforts by putting it in the public domain. That means you’ve haven’t just given it to your friends and loyal readers. You’ve given it to spammers and sploggers.

    These scum bags of the internet will be re-posting (w/o attribution) your work in all manner of spam and splogs. Worthless scam sites will offer “turnkey” versions of your site for money w/o giving you any credit.

    Domain squatters can now repost your information to pretend to have content.

    The list of abusers is much longer. Public Domain for a living person’s creations == very bad.

    You are now part of the spam/splog problem.

  40. vh says:

    From m: “’As a writer, my words and ideas are pretty much all I (or any information professional) have to offer. Attribution is often the only ‘pay’. It doesn’t seem magnanimous to me to relinquish all copyright — it seems like self-abasement. Furthermore, it has never been easy for writers to earn a living, and throwing away copyright just simply foolish to me.’

    “I have to disagree. As a writer, you have your words and ideas, AND you have your expertise and reputation. Expertise and Reputation are worth alot more than your ideas, because they are ultimately what pays the bills. Most people will only have one or two killer ideas, *if they are lucky*, in life, but your reputation and expertise are something nobody can take from you (except you).”\

    “Reputation and expertise gets you jobs, conferences, consulting gigs, endorsements, etc, all of which then build your reputation and expertise further leading to more growth.”

    Interesting, but I have to disagree with the disagreement. Writers don’t do jobs, conferences, consulting gigs, endorsements, etc. Writers write. Possibly there’s some confusion here between writers and hustlers.

    As a writer, I have had a broad regional and national reputation. My reputation and expertise get me book contracts and assignments from paying business clients, not jobs, conferences, consulting gigs, endorsements, etc. I do not need a once-in-a-lifetime “killer idea” to create products that people read and that earn me a living…if those products are not given away for free.

    I cannot make a living if everyone in sight thinks they have a right to use my work for free just because my work consists of words set down on a page or computer screen. How is my product different from, say, a head of lettuce in the grocery store? Few people think they have a right to take a head of lettuce out of the produce bin and eat it for free; why should anyone be able to take my work and use it for free?

    Actually, a better argument could be made for the idea that lettuce should be free. Maybe farmers should be forced to give away food crops for free. Food, after all, is required for life; when someone says she or he is hungry, that person should be given food for free. To do otherwise is homicidal.

    The written word, however, though it makes life better, is not crucial for the sustenance of life. Therefore, it seems to me, writers should not be expected to dispense their work in return for nothing but ego gratification and the opportunity to kill time with jobs, conferences, consulting gigs, etc. Farmers’ products should be in the public domain; writers’ products should be copyrighted.

    That’s only fair, don’t you think?

  41. N says:

    Thanks for making your stuff public domain. I have shared some of your writing with my careers classes in the past using the projector, but that isn’t as effective at times as a paper copy. Your ideas spark much commentary! They write thank you notes and I shared your thank you note article with them when the activity began. Also we used your article on advice for high school students once as an end-of-class filler.

    I recommend this site to lots of my contacts. You have a great writer’s voice that a lot of people can find effective.

    Hopefully you will be able to turn pro with your writing down the road in one way or another.

  42. Stephan F- says:

    Very Generous of you. Rock on!

  43. Ini says:

    I coordinate an educational program geared towards kids and alot of the information you offer is vital to a persons financial health. I wish I would have had this resource in my teens. If I use any of it for my educational sections I will mail you copies of it. The articles go out in our local newspaper. I am a newbie to your site and it is now the one reason I open my email box first thing in the morning.

  44. Elaine says:

    Trent, I respect and admire this decision. Because you share your expertise with others, I truly believe you will receive an abundance in return. I have learned so much from you and this has encouraged me to become more focused on my financial goals. Thank you for sharing.

  45. Tara says:

    I have been reading your postings for a month or two now and just think you are doing a great job. I am glad that I can freely place a link to your blog from my blog because I truly believe you deserve the attention (and free advertising). Keep up the great work!

  46. Todd says:

    vh provides a great analogy. Truly hilarious. As a teacher, I think my work is necessary AND I’d like the information I give my students to be available for everyone; therefore, I think that I too should work for free. (At least I’ll be given free lettuce, right? And I can always get free water at the local coffee shop.)

  47. Aaron Stroud says:

    Jonathan over at PlagiarismToday just posted an interesting analysis of Trent’s and Leo’s gifts to the community.

  48. Sylvie says:

    OK, I wasn’t going to post again, but vh and Todd get what I was trying to say exactly. Why should a writer’s work product — the written thing — be given away for free? Copyright is on one level simply a means of protecting intellectual work product — which can’t simply be locked up in the market at the end of the day like that head of lettuce.

    As for “expertise” and “reputation,” well, it’s kind of hard to express expertise without words, or develop a reputation without a byline.

  49. Wow…they way you are opening up the blog..I’m waiting for you to turn this site into The Simple Wikipedia Dollar

  50. erbe says:

    On behalf of all your readers, thank you. I would certainly understand the need to keep control of your work, and I would not respect you less if you changed your mind in the future. However, you are definitely building an audience, and when you do write that book of yours, we will be watching for it. I think there are a lot of people out there in debt and in a panic. According to all of the news reports, Americans are getting deeper and deeper in debt. And people in other countries are too. This is a worldwide problem. I think everyone I have ever met has a debt ‘problem’ of some size, or has had one in the past. But people who are in the midst of it feel ashamed, or they may not have the education or experience needed to deal with it alone. Or they may have no one to talk to, or those they know may be in spending mode, and are not helpful. You are definitely serving the greater good. People receive messages telling them to spend constantly. So we need to balance that out with messages saying that is ok to save, ok to use the cheaper alternative, ok to say you can’t afford it. Copyrighted or not, you are a voice of hope to everyone who is struggling out there.

  51. k says:

    Trent, I think this is a great idea for all the reasons others have spelled out above. I’m not clear on why some think it will contribute to the spam/splog problem. If it does, I think the benefits to all will far outweigh the downsides, for you and the rest of us.

    I was already planning on making a small contribution (once I get a glitch in my paypal sorted out); your public domain decision just reinforced that and ensures it won’t be a one-time thing. Thank you.

  52. Urban Vandweller says:

    Trent, regardless of what the naysayers rant, you are righteous with your generosity. Thank you for sharing your knowledge with all of us. Cheers

  53. Penny says:

    Trent you have given amazing advice and in fact you don’t have to worry because when you give it away it comes back to you. Helping others is not easy and finding a way to help people without having them in your face is really cool. I don’t know who gives you grief and made you make this decision but it’s still your writing that can never be taken away from you. So to the spammers and the negative ideas will fall away but the good will carry on. Faithful love is never ending.

  54. Trent,

    I think you’re on to something. Personally, I find your Book Reviews as some of your best content on this site. I have no doubt that you could stumble upon an awesome idea to incorporate your review talents to help the general public. We bookworms sure love a great review!

    Also, do not listen to others who have objections against your free public domain decision. This is your site, and you can do WHATEVER YOU WANT!

    Isn’t that the point of quitting our slavish 9-5 jobs and providing quality content to the public?

    Most people miss the point when bloggers take a risk that most others would avoid.

    Making your own decisions, no matter the outcome, is far more attractive than having some overseeing boss make them for you.

    You have my support 100%!

    P.S. When is your New York Times Bestseller coming out? We are getting anxious!?!

  55. jana says:

    very generous thing to do, and i, too, think these thingas will come back to you. it is good that something of value – ie the articles on this blog – can be used to help others.

  56. clint says:

    Good idea!!!

    Keep up the good work and you will have it come back to you a hundred fold.

    Clint Lawton


  57. Lin says:

    I’m linking to you this week! Thanks so much for all the info you provide!

  58. Asuka says:

    On a SEO point of view it is a freeking good idea to let the world scrape your content. All you do is add a link to your homepage after every article and voila backlinks gallore.

    Even brighter the idea of sharing and making info accessible to more people. Newbie bloggers can add quality content to their blogs in an ethical manner.

    I love the blogosphere bloggers helping bloggers, cheers!

  59. Asuka says:

    Wholly Cow! I just saw the number of rss subscribers!!!!!!!!! What a truely fascinating idea. I couldn’t resist I joined your feed too.

  60. This truly is a smart idea – people who copy content typically copy everything along -including embedded links to your articles to your website. That’s like distributing a free e-book with links to your site.

  61. Robert Tutsky says:

    Arrived to your blog an hour or so ago and found great material worth coming back for, kudos. Now I see that your work is public domain. You may not be exactly monetarily tithing but this gesture will certainly be returned to you in many ways.

  62. jorel314 says:

    Great to discover another blogger who embraces the public domain. You’ve made a subscriber out of me. Keep up the good work!

  63. jorel314 says:

    Also, you may be interested in “Set Free” a wiki that lists notable works dedicated to the public domain.


  64. turnkey website says:

    Haha ^^ nice, is there a section to follow the RSS feed

  65. Julia says:

    I just came across your blog today (let’s say about two hours ago) and I’ve been glued to my chair since I found you. This is so nice of you! How incredibly thoughtful that you would allow people to use this information that is obviously such high quality as their own.
    I don’t know that I would ever have an opportunity to reprint your articles but I still want to say thank you. It’s so rare to come across anyone who is willing to do something so selfless with no agenda and this is great stuff. You keep writing and I’ll keep reading! :)
    Thanks again

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