Now that 4iP has opened up the doors for proposals, I thought it would be useful to know a bit more about what the funding side of it actually is and how it works and what the implications of applying might be. None of this is supposed to be negative, I actually think 4iP has an interesting approach to the space and I really look forward to seeing what they bring to life. And I have a proposal of my own to submit. And that's why I went looking to understand the lay of the land.
So what are we submitting to? What is the structure of the funding? And what will 4iP do with submissions?
Normally, when you apply for some sort of funding you have a pretty clear idea of what the funding basis is, grant, equity, specialist etc and the basis on which funding might be available. With 4iP you have absolutely no idea how any support might come about. Some more clarity on this might be helpful, not only in guiding applications but in bringing more and better proposals to the table. For example, does 4iP want to own a majority of funded projects? Or a minority? Is it giving grants or will it take a stake? Does it want a seat on the board? Does it have assembled ranks of lawyers ready to spend five months building an investment document, or do they have a light touch system in place? Without knowing how 4iP might work, it's hard to know quite what to propose to it. For example, if I've got a project that has some funding already promised, or the likelihood of some funding from a reliable source, is it worth me applying to 4iP as well? Will their timeframes work with mine, do they in fact co-invest, will their structures work with those of the other investors, etc. Or, to suggest a simpler question, if I'm a eighteen year old student with a killer project and you want to fund it, will you provide support and infrastructure to get me off the ground or do I have to go find stuff elsewhere?
I'm not suggesting that all these sorts of questions can or should be answered by 4iP at this stage, but without any guidance at this point, they are all valid questions.
There's another issue that seems obvious: what implications does submitting to 4iP have for my pet project? While 4iP are quite clear in stating that they don't want to own your idea following submission, they also state:
"Where we do not take ownership of your User Content ... You now grant Channel 4 (and third parties authorised by Channel 4) a worldwide perpetual royalty free irrevocable non-exclusive licence to reproduce, copy, record, translate, modify, adapt, make available to the public, distribute, broadcast, record, perform, make derivative works from, edit, alter, store, re-format, sell and sub-licence your User Content in whole or in part or in any form in all media now known or in future invented. You hereby give all necessary waivers and consents for Channel 4 to use your User Content, including a waiver of those rights known as the moral rights of authors."
While this may sound like standard UGC disclaimer stuff, it is the terms and conditions linked to from throughout the site, including from the end of the submission forms. So it seems to apply to proposal submissions, i.e. that 4iP considers proposals to be "User Generated Content" that it can make available to the public, distribute, edit, alter and make derivative works from. Hmm, that's quite wide ranging. Although they don't 'own' your work, it sort of sounds like it belongs to them in perpetuity! So, in return for applying for some vague notion of funding 4iP get to distribute your inventions to the wider public and to make new versions of them. Deal or no deal?
For comparison I would go to the Arts Council who specifically state with application forms that they are subject to Freedom of Information requests, that they will not release your applications for funding before they are assessed, that you can request some parts to be kept secret for business reasons, but that in the end they may have to release some or all of your applications. Now, I understand that the Arts Council is a big organisation that has had years to work all of this out. My point with 4iP at this point is that it all seems a bit untransparent. A bit murky. Not deliberately murky (remember, I intend to submit!), but unclear.
(And why am I posting this here rather than on the 4iP site itself? Hmm, have you looked at the 4iP site recently? It's about as closed as a site can be. It take a broadcast model, wise words from above, that is almost the diametric opposite of what I read the project to be about. But that's another post ...)
So what I'm doing here, what I'm using the 38minutes site to do, is to ask 4iP to open up the kimono, to put more thinking on the public table, to engage in a conversation with potential users of your project. After all, you're asking us to add value to your world, it's only fair that you become a bit more transparent in return.