The SMOFCon 32 Schedule is now online. One of the items on which I'm participating is an "open meeting" of the WSFS Mark Protection Committee on Sunday at 10 AM. Although there's a tiny bit of business we will be doing at the front (which should take less than five minutes as it's mainly pro forma), the main purpose of this discussion/panel/meeting is to talk about revisiting how Worldcons fund the WSFS MPC.
The current funding for the MPC is known as the "traditional donation." For all of the time I've been going to Worldcon (stretching back to 1984), that has been US$1 per site selection voter. When there has been a short-term problem (a very serious and expensive one came up this year), the MPC goes hat-in-hand to past Worldcon committees with surplus funds and begs for help. While this system has worked, the current system has some problems that I'd like to address:
- Inflation: The value of the traditional donation is now roughly half what it was in 1984. You can see that relative to the site selection Advance Supporting Membership (voting) Fee. In the 1980s, that was about $20; today it's about $40.
- Voting Base: The number of people voting on site selection is more variable than the number of total members, primarily depending on whether the race is contested or not. This leads to large fluctuations in the MPC cash-flow. We've been relatively lucky so far, but having so little predictability has hampered our ability to do things like expand our mark registration to the EU.
My proposal is that the MPC should ask Worldcons to both reduce the rate of the donation while broadening its base. By that I mean that the rate per member should be only $0.50, but that it should be paid per membership with WSFS voting rights rather than per person who voted in the site selection election. Simply stated, you can look at this as a fifty cent license fee that goes to the WSFS MPC that allows Worldcon to use the WSFS service marks, and it's imposed upon every voting member.
I want to preempt an objection that usually gets made when I propose this, in that Worldcons would have difficulty budgeting for it. I don't think this is a problem. The MPC has, in my experience, nearly never asked a Worldcon to pay its donation until after the Worldcon is over. If that Worldcon loses money, we don't ask for a donation. If that Worldcon has a surplus, then before paying pass-along funds, it should pay the funding donation to the MPC, and by then it certainly should know how many voting members it had.
All WSFS MPC meetings are open to anyone who wants to attend them at a Worldcon, but most Worldcon members are too busy to do so. There's a high proportion of SMOFCon members who are interested in Worldcon and WSFS business, so I hope those with an interest in the matter of how we fund the body that registers and protects the Worldcon service marks including "Hugo Award" and the Hugo Award trophy will drag themselves out of bed for the 10 AM Sunday panel.
(It won't be easy for me, either, as I'm running the SMOFCon Probability & Statistics Seminar following the Fannish Inquisition on Saturday night, so I'm going to be short on sleep myself. I'm glad we don't leave until Monday morning to drive home via Bishop.)