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 ccMixter.org’ 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.

9 thoughts on “What Licenses Make Sense (To Me)

  1. Teemu Johannes Mikkonen

    I was planning multiple licenses to my works, (both by-sa and by-nd) but now that I thought it over after reading your text, NonDerivs really seems an attribute I don’t want to use with my music. You make me wonder if I really do want to keep even that ShareAlike there. That would even make my problems with multiple licensing simpler, I could also use only “by”. The problem is that I already have some stuff that can’t be released under that, for using Sampling+ or NC-Sampling+ licenses.

    I guess I’ll still offer the sampling folks a chance to use both “sampling+” and “by” when possible.

    Thank You. You made somethings somewhat clearer to me.

    – TJM of Aamu

  2. Marco Raaphorst

    Hi Victor,

    Great writing! Some interesting thoughts, I will think about these.

    Thanks you!


  3. Evan Prodromou

    It’s impressive that you’re so definite about NonCommercial despite the fact that neither Creative Commons nor anyone interested seems to share your opinion in the slightest. Perhaps, before giving legal advice, you should check the actual text of the license and make sure you understand it.

    Also, ‘It means “money in exchange for music” and new license verbiage is going to make that explicit.’ Where did that tidbit come from? I’m pretty active with CC, and I’ve never heard it. Is that information public?

    Finally, you may be interested in this page on the CC Wiki: http://wiki.creativecommons.org/wiki/NonCommercial_use_cases
    There are a lot of edge cases to NonCommercial that you should think about before making blanket statements.

  4. victor

    What’s so impressive about choices I make about how I interpret the licenses as applied to my music?

    The title of this piece is ‘to me’, as in: me, not Evan.

    I start the piece by explicitly stating that I do NOT speak for anyone at CC.

    I point to a video of John Buckman where he expresses very clearly he thinks church bake sales and school projects are very troublesome cases for Magnatune — and CC in general. I’ve heard him say that “there is no such as non-commercial” — I think in the video he says “non-commercial means no audience” which in essence is the same thing.

    If the new license do not express ‘money in exchange for music’ then yes, I will rethink my opinions.

    I guess what’s impressive to me is that you would ignore all this and assume my opinions on my web site regarding my music is the definitive word for all music under all NC licenses. I had no idea my words had so much power. Cool.

  5. Jason Scott

    Excellent work there, Victor. The minute anyone responds to you in a way that questions what you wrote, your immediate response is to play dead and go “IT’S JUST A BLOG, MAN” until, hopefully, the evil questioning-your-statements man goes away.

    Going “this is to me, for me” implies, basically, nobody should read your work, since they’re not you. For shame.

    For my own part, I licensed the BBS Doc Attribute-Sharealike 2.0. Huzzah!

    P.S. I can’t call it my BBS doc ume ntary because your content filter blocks it. Way to go.

  6. victor

    Hey Jason, loved your doc (!) bought mine early and recommended it to as many folks as I could think of.

    Meanwhile, please point out the part of Evan’s post I did NOT respond to (or laid down on, or whatever) and I’ll be happy to oblige with a response.

    HOWEVER I will not take part in a cred-fest-pee ing match other than to point out that Evan’s claim that he speaks for “everyone [at] CC [and] anyone interested” is, to put it as discretely as possible, just wrong — and er, a wrong blanket statement at that.

    This is the third time I’m saying this: I KNOW people don’t agree with my opinions, I LINKED to those opposing opinions in the piece.

    I would venture to say Evan is po’d because, gasp, I don’t agree with him, not the other way around.

    My content filter is the default thingy (+MTBlacklist) in MoveableType from a billion years ago when I installed it and never looked back. Sorry if that offends you, there is only so much energy I can put into fighting off the 1000s of cas ino/blue-pills ads this site gets bombarded with.

  7. Ken

    So a few months ago, I posted a little message here to you telling you how exactly google is going to own the world, remember?
    It begins here

Comments are closed.