Parameter File Sharing For Dummies

Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.

The most recent “discussion” about parameter file sharing on the Ultra Fractal Mailing List has reminded me how deep the wheel ruts are when it comes to fractal artists talking about copyright and ownership.  Most fractal artists subscribe to notions about copyright that are the law only in their own private, mental kingdoms.  Answers to almost all their questions about copyright are available –from official government sources– on the internet, but oddly, very few fractal artists seem to be interested in actually resolving these questions.  Why consult the US Copyright Office when you know more about their copyright legislation than they do?

Copyright is neither a moral or ethical issue: it’s a legal one.  Consult the law, not your personal feelings or that of your online buddies.

Putting copyright issues aside, for the moment, what is the best way to share fractal parameter files?

Firstly, do you really want to help others build on your fractal discoveries? or do you just want to fish for applause with your parameter file?  Unless you really want to pool your knowledge with other fractalists, you shouldn’t be giving out your parameter files to start with.  You’re just setting yourself up for disappointment  because you can’t take back what you’ve given out on the internet.  It works that way with posting embarrassing party photos, and so it does with anything else uploaded to the… World Wide Web.

The best solution I can think of for most artists that will enable artistic collaboration and minimize feelings of regret, is to:

  • share parameters only with other artists who approach you personally.

Posting parameters to the Ultra Fractal Mailing List is effectively giving them out to a huge, anonymous crowd.  You have no rapport with an anonymous crowd and they have none with you; any restrictions you place on the use of your parameters are about as meaningless as your name that goes with them.  It doesn’t matter what your legal rights are, you won’t even be able to enforce copyright restrictions over something which is only the source code of a fractal image unless those “infringers” help you out by posting their parameter file for you to compare.  (Or unless they only minimally alter your parameters and post an image which is almost identical to yours.)

Think about it:  sharing parameters only on a personal level is a good policy because it also allows the recipients to give back to you and builds up professional connections that could easily become a source for mentoring or other kinds of professional development.

Furthermore, fractal art is such a small genre that once you exclude everyone except the dedicated enthusiasts, you could share your parameters for the latest hybrid mandelbox with five other artists like yourself and have reached 80% of everyone who’s making regular, meaningful contributions to that area of fractal art.

Besides, there’s an enormous amount of imitation in fractal art today; widespread parameter file sharing probably makes that worse.  When artists should be experimenting with new things and discovering new types of imagery having other artists (good artists) give them a short cut probably doesn’t help them much in the long run.  The only good use of parameter file sharing is to spur further innovation, not easy imitation.  Share your innovations with other innovators.

Most people love to share their skills and knowledge with others who share their interests.  Not all; some artists are different, competitive and that sort of thing, but I believe most will find these professional exchanges quite inspiring as well as equally satisfying.

Throwing their pearls before swine, on the other hand, has been a regretful thing for artists, intellectuals and just about everyone else, ever since biblical times.