Tigerbob & Intellectual Property:
A Conversation on CC0 with Gossamer Rozen

Everyone is talking about CC0. What does it mean for artists and brands — and is it appropriate for a project like Tigerbob? Artist and founder Gossamer Rozen (@grelysian) shares their views on intellectual property, plans for the Tigerbob brand, and reflections on the state of web3.

Tigerbob by Gossamer Rozen
10 min readAug 17, 2022
Gossamer featured on the Nouns twitter banner, wearing Nouns Vision — a CC0 derivative project funded by the Nouns Treasury. Nouns is a CC0 project.

What is CC0 and why does it matter to artists?

CC0 is just one of many approaches to licensing intellectual property (IP) under Creative Commons, allowing authors and artists to specify how their work can be used. Some licenses (e.g. CC2, 3, 4 etc) restrict others from adapting or remixing a creative work, using it for commercial purposes, or using it without crediting the original author.

“Creative Commons License Spectrum” by Shaddim (CC BY) illustrating the large spectrum of permissiveness allowed of IP, from fully open (CC0) to fully closed (All Rights Reserved).

CC0, on the other hand, is just like something being in the public domain, the same as when a copyright expires. No individual owns the work, so anyone can freely create something new based on the original material. It’s a balancing act: tighter control over IP rights protects an artist’s ownership, ensuring that they can monetize their work and prevent it from being exploited; open IP rights fuel innovation, encouraging others to build on, revitalize and proliferate creativity.

For more discussion on the pros and cons, I’d highly recommend checking out the latest podcast from Overpriced JPEGs.

Why is CC0 such a hot topic in web3?

Artist Marlo Johnson, a PROOF selected artist known for her ethereal animations, recently placed her “With The Light” series under the CC0 license.

Web3 is all about decentralized ownership, provenance, and community-building—those are the greatest innovations and advantages we have. Projects can absorb input and resources from their communities to further explore and expand their brand beyond what might be possible otherwise.

Remixing and rehashing artwork for memes and other social media content is one way that communities grow and develop a sense of shared identity, and that kind of interaction is protected by fair use, regardless of the rights or restrictions on the artwork.

But holders often want to build their own projects or products that can return some kind of financial value, to themselves or to the community at large, and they expect web3 to offer more freedoms than the typical licensing setup you would see in a web2 brand.

XCOPY, a well-known anonymous artist in web2 and web3 known for his glitch art, recently made the move to license all of his work (except for collaborations) under CC0. Prior to this, only select pieces were under the CC0 license.

In the same way that smart contracts are permissionless, CC0 is also permissionless. It’s very DIY, and it’s faster to proliferate a brand because you don’t have to go through the traditional system of licensing which can be time consuming and tedious.

Nouns graphic by Delphi Digital praising the project’s CC0 license.

One of the prime examples of this in action is the Nouns project. I think they’ve been successful in large part because they started out by being very intentional, with a CC0 model and a financial treasury backed by the founders so they could help fund spin-off projects within the Nouns ecosystem. A lot of projects have made their artwork CC0, but very few have found similar success to the Nouns project’s brand proliferation.

There needs to be an incentive for builders to participate and take the time to create meaningful projects that will expand the brand. Having financial backing, a governance system to steer the project, and a solid social presence is key — it also depends on how much social capital a project already has to begin with. There must be a strong foundation to build on.

Anonymous creator Salvino Armati describing the Nouns project and funding process for the Nouns Vision project.

What are some of the advantages, or challenges, of CC0?

If you’re a new project in the space with little presence outside of web3, it’s going to be hard for people to find a reason to use your artwork through a CC0 license without some kind of financial or social incentive behind it. You can’t just throw your art out there with no eyes on it and expect it to grow just because people are allowed to.

Moonbird #9896 by Justin Mezzell of PROOF, Oddities #9896 by Gremplin for PROOF, and CrypToadz #844 by Gremplin for CrypToadz— all CC0 tokens owned by Gossamer.

That’s one of the main reasons why CC0 is not for everyone, at least to start. And that’s why I believe that there’s no reason to rush into CC0 because, at the end of the day, every creative work (in the United States at least) will eventually enter the public domain when copyright expires, and once you widen the scope of rights you can’t go back–so it makes sense to do this deliberately.

G.I. Toadz #4487, a token from the derivative project G.I. Toadz based on Cryptoadz, featuring one Marlo Johnson’s “With The Light” series as a background for the NFT.

It’s appropriate in most contexts for brands to work, at least at the outset, with a tighter scope of control over how their work is used. Once they’ve created valuable IP and built a community behind it, there are better opportunities to explore how to leverage it by mobilizing and supporting others to take it further.

What are your thoughts, specifically, on the Moonbirds move to CC0?

I would like to preface this by stating that I am a friend of Kevin Rose and the team, I have been in PROOF before the PROOF pass existed, I am a PROOF selected artist which means I have access to the Discord without owning any tokens, I participated in Grails I with Iteration 0 (token #10), and finally I own one PROOF Pass, three Moonbirds, and one Oddities. I do not have any proprietary knowledge about Kevin Rose’s ideas, Highrise, PROOF, or and any of their other projects other than what is known in the private Discord, social media, and otherwise.

Kevin Rose’s announcement on Moonbirds and Oddities artwork moving to the CC0 license.

I believe one of the reasons PROOF made this decision was the sheer amount of legal busywork that went into trying to protect the Moonbirds brand, specifically in cases where remixed artwork was being used commercially among non-holders. (Prior licensing allowed commercial and non-commercial rights to holders only in some way.) PROOF also did not expect the massive growth of Moonbirds since its launch in April, and I believe they are making adjustments to accommodate the enthusiasm of their community and to take advantage of the momentum for the sake of the future of the brand.

AI Nightbirds, a derivative project based on Moonbirds that existed pre-CC0 license. Previously called “AI Moonbirds,” they were politely asked to change their name in order to avoid infringing on the Moonbirds trademark.

Note that their trademark is still protected — that is, the Moonbirds name cannot be used in connection with derivative projects dropped under the past or current CC0 license. This is distinct from the IP of the artwork itself.

I hope that Moonbirds will explore some of the financial and governance tools that Nouns have created (a DAO for Moonbirds holders is reportedly in the works). It’s a different context, of course, since there are 10,000 Moonbirds while Nouns has a unique dynamic, growing slowly while adding one each day.

With such a big community, there were always going to be strong opinions both for and against Moonbirds going CC0. But I think making this transition now, as opposed to waiting another year or two, was wise — and while there could have been more discussion in advance, ultimately some decisions just have to be made that way, from the top.

From a legal standpoint, when an artist holds the license they can always choose to adjust it without prior communication — this is part of the Terms of Service. But once you adopt CC0, there’s no turning back.

What rights do Tigerbob holders have?

Tigerbob #780 next to a digital frame of the same NFT on display in the home of the collector.

The Tigerbob IP and trademark is owned by GROZEN FA LLC, a sole propietorship LLC founded and owned by Gossamer.

Currently, Tigerbob holders have limited, non-commercial rights to the specific Tigerbob they own: a limited, worldwide, non-exclusive transferable license to use and display the art associated only with your Tigerbob, for only personal and non-commercial use. We’ve published all of the terms for holders to review on our website.

For example, you can have your Tigerbob printed on a t-shirt or on a poster. You can display it. But you can’t monetize it or leverage it for commercial gain, because that’s encroaching on the brand itself.

I also allow folks to get their Tigerbob tattooed on themselves by an artist other than myself. Again, you can’t use this for commercial gain, so it’s not possible for a tattoo artist to offer Tigerbob tattoos for all customers. But an individual holder can get their own Tigerbob tattooed by another artist, because I can’t be everywhere at once, tattooing a thousand people. In my view, getting your Tigerbob art tattooed on yourself is the same as paying somebody to make a print of your Tigerbob for you to display in your home. It’s personal and entirely non-commercial.

A digital mock-up of the Iteration 1 series, on order for a collector who will display it in their home.

Initially when Tigerbob launched, my legal team advised me to be alert on how IP protection works. There’s a sort of “use it or lose it” aspect to copyright protection: if you don’t defend it in some cases, your ability to defend it in the future has less traction.

An example of Tigerbob under fair use — LuckyTrader created this banner for their article commenting on the Tigerbob project.

When memes and commentary remixed with Tigerbob art appeared, my first impulse was to defend ownership. I later learned that this is protected by fair use. With a huge sigh of relief, I embraced it, and apologized for my mistake. Understanding IP is a huge learning process for creators as well as collectors, and there are many gray areas.

Tigerbob memes are welcome and fall under fair use.

What’s your reaction when people ask for Tigerbob to be CC0?

Tigerbob #083 manufactured into 4" vinyl stickers by Gossamer for official Tigerbob marketing, and distributed to fans during NFT.NYC 2022.

I guess my gut reaction is, do you know what you’re asking for? Are you asking for the project to follow a trend just because someone else did? I believe education about the many pros and cons of CC0 and other Creative Commons licenses is needed in the web3 space. In my opinion, open IP is not always an applicable utility for all projects and communities.

CC0 is not applicable for what Tigerbob is doing right now because, in order for us to be able to pursue the kinds of projects we envision, I need to have full control over the license. It’s not going to be possible for us to make our own merchandise and sell it if anyone in the world has the right to do the same thing. I would no longer have authority over the direction of the brand, over what, how and with whom these products are made.

Temporary Tattoos by Gossamer for Tattly. An example of Gossamer’s prior experience licensing fine art — Gossamer must retain full rights to their work in order to collaborate on products and merchandise in the web2 world.

As a fine artist who finally has the opportunity to build my own brand beyond making individual works of art for sale, retaining those rights is very important to me. I want to continue creating in a way that’s authentic to the original idea and values of the brand: putting artistic vision first.

I think that’s going to be more commercially viable and ultimately more meaningful and valuable to the community. Web3 gives me, as a creator, a kind of freedom I would never find doing works for hire or under the auspices of a grant. That’s the purpose of Tigerbob, which is why the rights are structured as they are.

A knitted swatch made by Gossamer to explore Tigerbob in knitted clothing and other accessories.

Could that change in the future?

Well, it’s important to mention that the current licensing doesn’t prevent us from exploring all kinds of partnerships and ideas—it just preserves my right to pick and choose, and structure those agreements in a way that will benefit the brand.

If someone has an idea for a project or product that is consonant with the brand and its values, if they want to do something ethically and environmentally responsible, we can talk about it and see if the project is a good fit for the brand.

A Tigerbob overlaid on a Terraform, a generative project by Mathcastles. Gossamer has expressed interest in collaborating with the Terraforms project.

And if there are builders who are interested in doing all kinds of things, we’re always open. Right now we’re building very much in the sector of a luxury fashion and lifestyle brand, so we’re focused on creating products for people to wear, for people to enjoy at home. So we’re going to be collaborating with manufacturers and other builders who can make those products happen.

In those kinds of cases, the license is distributed to those parties in a limited way, and what is produced effectively becomes part of the project. There are ways for this to grow and evolve. I know folks scoff at web2 and its structure, but I think people sometimes forget that this is what licensing typically looks like, and it’s what traditionally makes a brand commercially viable — retaining the ability to create products with my own artwork and ideas. I don’t want to rush into something that could compromise that.

Artwork by Gossamer licensed to River Valley Printing Co. for the purpose of manufacturing high-quality gliclee prints for customers.

Beyond that, I want collectors to know that our team is always available on social media and Discord, and we’re always listening to how folks are reacting to the artwork. There is a massive pool of talent and ideas within our small community, and that is incredibly valuable to us. Our eyes and ears are always open.

We’re not going CC0 any time soon, for all the reasons I’ve discussed. And it’s important for me as an artist to be supported by this brand and to preserve my ownership of it, so that I can continue building, guided by my own artistic vision. Most holders won’t ever capitalize on the IP rights. We’re listening carefully to our community and working together to build something that’s going to benefit everyone without compromising the brand’s ideals. CC0 may be emblematic of some of the possibilities of web3, but I think it’s equally revolutionary for this space to upend the traditional model where creativity is simply extracted from artists, and instead empower artists to do what they want with their work.



Tigerbob by Gossamer Rozen

Tigerbob is a luxury fine art, fashion, and character brand by artist & designer Gossamer Rozen. tigerbob.store