Category Archives: Licensing

Two Sides of a Non-existent Coin

Eric Kleptone may not know it (Hectic City – The Kleptones » Blog Archiv » We’re on the road to paradise, here we go, here we go…) but he seems to love EFF’s music collective proposal:

As David Bowie quipped in 2002, “music will soon become like running water”. Turn the tap on. Have a drink. Have another one. No need to keep big buckets of the stuff around, just pay your water charges.

Lucas, er, not so much.

I Hearlt Renault

Sweet. I just sold a mega license to the French Renault web site (no link yet) for using fourstones’ instrumental “Not Even Alone” (stream here) from “Chronic Dreams“. That cut used samples supplied to me directly from Drop Trio‘s Big Dipper recording session from “Lefty’s Alone” (stream here).

This is more than enough to pay off my debt to my so-called-non-evil label.

Who knows, maybe this open music thing will work out.

More NC Hand Wringing

To state the obvious: I don’t know jack about legal stuff.

But what I gather from Fox news and other such reliable outlets is that legal precedence is set in court. Not on blogs or mailing lists.

So for all the continued hand wringing going on about what is “commercial” and what isn’t I can’t help thinking that until the CC licenses are tested in court (that is, somebody, somewhere actually files a suit involving a CC license somewhere in the mix) it’s all a huge mound of hyperbolic hypothetical, which, I’m told can make for quite a rewarding career if not a social life.

My reading of the latest proposal (pdf) is what I was told it would be nine months ago: commercial means “money in exchange for art” and other obvious stuff like “music used to sell stuff.”

As far as I can tell there are two camps at war here: those without children who feel their lives are lacking meaning and use any excuse to busy up their existence and take the rest of us down with them, and those with children who are just trying to get out of this mortal coil thing with as little deep scar tissue and head shrinker bills as possible. Field commanders and parents have to make calls — everything else is just an unexploded IED, no need to approach it, leave alone touch it if all you’re trying to do is make that C24 transport that leaves in 20 minutes. Or, if you like, you can always consult a handy amicus curiae wiki page to help you through it.

CC has a very, very long way to go help sow the seeds of a fertile alternative eco-system in the music business — not the least of which includes gaining a track record of musicians who actually make a living with open music, preferably without a year spent on discussing what it means ‘to make a living’ in blogs and mailing lists.

Just for the record: if a Girl Scout troop wants to use a NC fourstones track in their cookie drive then I will sue their little brownie badges to hell and back.

Support the Commons

There’s supporting the Commons, then there’s Supporting the Commons.

Funny thing happened on the way to tax-exception: turns out you need public support to be publicly funded. Who knew?

If you like the idea of CC, if you like ccMixter, if you want to say ‘I was there before the whole thing blew apart at the seams’ then fork over a couple bucks and RedHat will match it.

To be an Artistic Supporter

Putting personal differences aside I think it’s important to continue to support Jason at Texfiles.

He’s got his tipjar out looking to fund his next project, a documentary about text based games. For $100 you can join THE GET LAMP ADVENTURER’S CLUB and “pre-order” the doc, get some credits and freebies when the production is done. I got my copy of his BBS documentary the day it came out but that’s not supposed to be the incentive to invest.

Having said that, the $100 door fee is a little steep… but I can understand the impatience involved in waiting for $5 donations to add up to significant impact in the production. Personally I wouldn’t hesitate if: 1) Jason promised to release the new production under CC and/or 2) he promised to use CC music (*cough*) in the new production. (As far as I know, there isn’t any CC music in the BBS doc uses 100% CC music.)

What Licenses Make Sense (To Me)

The ccMixter experience has been interesting in terms of CC licensing. What follows is a summation of my personal views, even though I am under contract with CC these views do not represent anything remotely like official statements from CC.


There are two reasons to put music in the Commons: (1) it’s good for culture and (2) it’s good for your career.

(2) doesn’t matter that much if you’re already some kind of big famous celebrity, but if no one knows who you are you need a reason for people to listen to your music. Giving your music away in as many different contexts as possible is key to that. Besides showing a very basic respect for your (potential) audience, you simply can’t afford to mute the sound on your non-existent career before it gets started.

If your music is worth stealing then it’s already stolen. Get over it. If your music isn’t worth stealing then what harm, exactly, is there in giving it away?

CC Licenses

I am officially off the Sampling family of licenses. Maybe if you’re a rock star like the Beasties or Chuck D and you’re really nervous about releasing tracks into the Commons this is a good baby step. But if you’re up and coming and you want to get your music out there these licenses are just too restrictive, especially when it comes to syncing the music to film and getting your tunes into advertising. It’s also highly questionable if straight-up mash-ups are even covered in this license because the remix has to be ‘highly transformative.’ Club mixes are completely forbidden. Personally I’m going to ignore the Sampling licenses for my own use.

I have grave reservations about ShareAlike. While promoters of this license claim it forces open licensing into more places I would claim anything that prevents someone from using my music is having the opposite effect. I don’t ever want to hear “I’d play/remix/sync your song but I don’t want to re-license my work as foo-bar-ShareAlike.” As I stated recently, SA does not affect podcasters, broadcasters and other collections but as a remixer it could have (and has in the case of Mixter) chilling effect on what licenses can be mixed together in sampled/remixed works. That’s enough for me to take a pass on SA.

The only place SA makes total sense (am I’m being at least half serious) is when an RIAA/MPAA entity is interested in your work. Then I would stick it to them and make them go with a SA. Someday, I should be in this situation.

NonDerivs means people can’t remix my material without asking permission. This seems counter to the larger point of putting music in the Commons in both the cultural sense (if all art is built on some thing else, why prevent that?) and in the “good for my career” sense (you want to get your music OUT THERE, no? why allow file sharing and not remixing?)

That leaves NonCommercial. Despite some recent hand wringing about the meaning of the term “non commercial” this means what common sense tells you: “money in exchange for music.”

NC does not mean “a piece of donations received at my church picnic where copies of my CD were handed out” or “a cut of the Amazon partner program take because you have a link to Amazon and my MP3 on your site.”

No. Stop that.

It means “money in exchange for music” and new license verbiage is going to make that explicit. In which case I kind of like this license. It accepts the reality of people who steal music without persecuting people who honestly can’t afford it; all the while encouraging film makers, art installations and remixers who have zero budget and who would otherwise pass on my music completely.

If you’re really making money selling my music then yea, I’d like a cut. If you refuse I’ll probably say OK anyway but either way, I guess I’d like to be notified you’re doing it. So NC works for me where I might give a shit about money.

Finally Attribution (aka BY) has actually been tricky because if I license a sample pack to remixers am I really asking for attribution because you used my open hi-hat sample? This is especially hideous on a sites like Mixter, OpSound, FreeSound where there are 1000s of samples. Do I really have to attribute each artist for each stupid micron of reverb coming off the synth patch? The answer is: the version 2.5 of BY allows for simple collective attribution. That means I just say ‘samples from’ some where near my remix or collection of remixes. I can live with that.

So the answer for me is:

Attribution (2.5) in all cases, Attribution-NonCommercial (2.5) where I’m feeling full of myself.

New Creative Commons License

I have mixed feelings about the new Creative Commons Music Sharing license (info here).

As a producer of music who uses samples extensively I want as much music available to ply my trade (legally) as possible. As a world citizen I’d like to see people with a real talent for that make great, explicitly derivative art.

But I also understand that a lot of creative people, especially those with a true talent for composition and performance want to keep some control over who does what to their original artwork.

In the end, having the choice for the artist is the most important thing so I’m really not all that torn — I’m just pretending to be for the cameras. You know, election year posturing stuff.

The fact is, I was begging the CC folks to make the non-derivs license as explicit as possible because I was (and still am) positive that many musicians use the non-derivs license not realizing they are restricting remixes, even non-commercial ones.

Now, between the explicit split between the Sharing license vs. the Sampling license a composer and performer can have little doubt what their choices mean.