August 14, 2003  ·  admin

I thought it would be appropriate in Lessig’s blog to discuss what led to my adoption of the Creative Commons License and the GNU General Public License for our work on the Kucinich presidential campaign.

As a good friend of many artists and engineers, I understand and support their need to make a living. As a father, I don’t believe our government has any business locking up kids for sharing files on the Internet. As a Congressman, I have taken an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States, which states very clearly in Article 1, Section 8, that “The Congress shall have Power: To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.”

“Yes, we did produce a near-perfect republic. But will they keep it? Or will they, in the enjoyment of plenty, lose the memory of freedom?” — Thomas Jefferson in a letter to John Adams

The framers knew the importance of the progress of science and useful arts. Their intention was clear. Unfortunately, corporate interests have intruded on our process of government. The overwhelming influence of political money from corporate interests has corrupted the ability of Congress to protect science and the arts. Today, much of our science and useful arts is coming forth from sources independent of monopolies, thanks to people like you. Yet Congress continues to try to limit certain activities of inventors and artists in order to preserve corporate power and domination. We must, once again, move to reclaim the promise inherent in Article 1, Section 8.

In my case, I have chosen the free content and free software licenses because I believe they will promote these important goals better than more restrictive “proprietary” licenses. On my presidential campaign, we are currently developing a policy requesting that our supporters license their works to us and others under free license as well. This is valuable because it will provide a body of work to be used by grassroots activists to create their own tools to promote individual and community based expressions of democracy. For example, anyone will be able to take photos, video, audio, or software and reuse it to create their own materials — without hiring an attorney to negotiate rights (sorry Larry). In this spirit, feel free to rip, mix, and burn my work here.

This is what the American Revolution was all about!

Dennis J. Kucinich
Des Moines, Iowa

This entry and my personal blog are licensed under a Creative Commons License.

  • Kevin Makice

    You are, of course, forgiven for the late post. I missed the C-SPAN coverage (and forgot to Tivo) but anxiously await the show to be broadcast on the new at Coming off of a day where I learned Humana didn’t cover a wellness exam my first in five years — in June, I am very anxious to see how us and National Insurance played in Des Moines.

    Regarding this issue of proprietary licensing, it is a sticky matter. I don’t make my living as a writer, but I have fancied that as a possible career change at some point. (My insurance situation is too crappy for me to seriously explore it, but that’s the health coverage issue again.) If I made a commitment to write for hire, then it obviously becomes much more important for my creations to be protected in some way.

    However, I love the idea of art for art’s sake, and communicating for the sake of connection. It is perhaps a sad indictment of our appreciation of artistry that makes the buck a larger factor than the audience.

    Ultimately, it is not the pursuit of fortune that leads most artists to want protection for their work but fear of exploitation. It is easier to live with the idea of contributing to collective ownership of art than it is to contribute unwillingly to someone else’s gain from your creation.

    Lessig’s August 10 post on Warner-Chappell’s decision about Radiohead lyrics made me smile.

  • Clarity Sanderson

    The more I learn about you, the more proud I am to be an American. Thanks for giving me that back. It’s been awhile.

  • Ingrid Shafer

    Thank you for your support for creativity! Most of the classics of human civilization would never have been created if contemporary copyright laws had been in force. No one told Homer or Virgil or Dante or Shakespeare that they couldn�t use existing stories and motifs in order to weave their magic. No one censured early Christians or Buddhists for presenting Jesus or the Buddha in the form of Apollo! No one arrested Tchaikovsky for weaving Ukrainian folk tunes into his symphonies. At its best, creativity is a rag picker that stitches together existing pieces and gives them life in new and wondrous configurations. None of this means, of course, that we should plagiarize with impunity and fail to give credit to the ones who have inspired us. It means that creativity must be allowed to play feely without being kept on a legalistic leash.

    Some thirty years ago a dear friend of mine, Gustav Mueller, a prolific author and Hegel scholar at the University of Oklahoma, was proud of the way his books disappeared from the library shelves. Wasn�t it grand, he opined, that all these students think so much of my books that they want to steal them. Quite frequently he personally replaced the missing books. Were Gustav alive today, I bet his books and articles would be on the Internet, part of a magnificent, free, universal, and growing public library � if he could pry them loose from the clutches of publishers.

    Finally, there is a major difference between paying authors for their works and tying up works for more than a reasonable time before allowing them to become part of the Creative Commons for all of humanity to share! I love the Internet for many reasons, but primarily because it provides the perfect milieu for spontaneity and collaboration and crossfertilization of ideas–which is the condition for the emergence of new life.

    BTW, I am listening to a replay of the Iowa healthcare discussion on C-SPAN. Thanks for your carefully designed plan of �medicare for all� and especially for making health care facilities what they ought to be�NON-profit!

  • Richard Bennett

    As a father, I don�t believe our government has any business locking up kids for sharing files on the Internet

    As a father, I believe that government wouldn’t have to do this if other fathers would kindly teach their children that it’s wrong to steal. It’s also wrong to share pipe-bomb recipes, death threats, threats against the president, pornographic images of children and confidential information. Just because an expression can be reduced to a file doesn’t mean it’s automatically all right to spread it all over the world and damn the consequences.

  • adamsj

    File sharing, pipe-bombs, kiddie porn, threats against the president–well! Don’t forget felonious jaywalking while you’re slipping the rails of rational comment this time. Really, now–one of those is rightly a civil matter, not a criminal one, and a minor one at that.

    As everyone knows (except Richard, and he’s playing dumb), the vast majority of lost revenues to artists come from physical piracy.

    Despite owning thousands of LPs, 45s, CDs, cassettes–hell, I own 8-tracks, reel-to-reel, and (I think) even a few 4-tracks–I’ve never once downloaded a copyrighted song without permission, but I know some of my stuff is undoubtedly counterfeited. I can’t prove it–don’t have the technical means–but those fuzzy-looking CDs and cassettes you see in convenience stores and truck stops are knockoffs made by organized crime, usually in other countries. They compete head-to-head with authorized product and take revenue away from the record companies.

    Of course, going up against organized crime and free trade is scary, and going after file-sharers is easy. There’s also long been a suspicion–oh, hell, more than a suspicion, but proving that it’s endemic has been hard–that fairly high-ranking people in some recording companies are aiding the counterfeiters. I mean, when you just have the executive and the crook making money, and the artist is out of the picture, well, hey! That’s damn good business! It’s just an optimization of the artist-recording company relationship.

    But as for these massive attacks on file-sharing-as-terrorism, that’s a suicide tactic on the part of the RIAA, and I’m glad.The recording industry needs to die–it no longer serves a purpose other than to get between artists and audiences.

    People have given me a few (less than two dozen) burned discs over the years, and I’m making a point of buying legit copies of anything I want. I don’t dump the others–that’s a form of commercial counterfeiting–but I do keep them around in case I decide to give the artist another shot. (I do have burned copies of a couple of disks that I’ve lost–sensible of me to make backups, while I still can, but I’ll still replace them someday.) As a hard-core music buyer, I want The Real Thing. As the brilliant and highly successful Ani DiFranco says on all her art:

    unauthorized duplication, while sometimes necessary, is never as good as the real thing.

    My wife and I independently bought copies of one of Ani’s albums, and we’re keeping them both. Ani DiFranco makes great art for which we appreciate her, and we value her even more because statements like that indicate that she values us.

  • Dee Lichtenberger

    It’s funny, all this proprietary licensing of music is why I started spending a lot of time listening to home-grown “garage-bands” more often than commercial music. These guys produce their own stuff, most of it damned good if I do say so, and they give it away just in the hopes of being heard. Now I’ve heard more than a few say “This file-sharing stuff is just crazy! Why shouldn’t our fans be able to download some of our songs for free? Isn’t it just good advertising?”

    I’m inclined to agree. I do not understand the point of keeping every work from every artist signed locked up in a vault until someone comes up with the cash. How are they going to be heard that way? I got news for the record companies, there are lots of us that just don’t listen to radio that often. Half my exposure to new music is either direct in local live venues or off the internet. If I can’t hear what the artist is doing at all, then I’m not going to know if I like them therefore I’m not buying anything put out under proprietary license. The industry is costing the artists money by refusing to compromise on creative licensing.

    What would be easiest, and wisest is if they took specific tracks from recordings and licensed them under a free creative license, either before release of the album, or after it has sold it’s peak volume. By doing that, they raise the exposure of the artist and provide incentive for people to purchase the proprietary works. Give them a taste and they’ll want more. If it were me, I’d do that with tracks that don’t get much airtime, and don’t seem to be very popular, for two reasons. 1. I usually buy an album for a couple of the most popular songs, and then discover a less popular song I like even better than those I’ve heard before, and 2. It’s going to raise the appeal to those who don’t go for “pop” music or follow the crowd.

    Increased market appeal means increased profit. Increased interest in an album means more people likely to buy the whole thing.

  • joe

    super-troll Bennett: It is not “wrong” or illegal to share pipe-bomb recipes… it is illegal to do so with the intent that the reader commit a “federal crime of violence” (thanks, Dianne Feinstein).

  • Nick

    File sharing is not stealing. That’s a propaganda word used by the industry to prejudice impressionable minds. It is copyright infringement, as the industry has recently redefined the term. It does not cost the industry money, but actually helps them make money.

    Calling it stealing is a wrong use of the word designed to prejudice the listener.

  • Noah

    I noticed that you used Apple’s famous (infamous?) “Rip, Mix and Burn” line in your last entry. Since I mentioned the subject, do you mind telling us which OS you use? This is kinda the geek equivalent of “Boxers or Briefs?”, but I am still curious.

  • Mike A

    “Just because an expression can be reduced to a file doesn�t mean it�s automatically all right to spread it all over the world and damn the consequences.”

    Nope. Doesn’t mean it’s illegal, either. I share LOTS of music files, but only with my friends over encrypted and firewalled tunnels. I’m within ALL legal rights to do this.

  • dennis peterson

    I recently talked to a guy who sets up websites for artists and musicians, and I asked him what he thinks of filesharing. He said all his clients love it, and encourage their fans to share their stuff. The musicians sell their own CDs, and are making a lot of money doing it. Some of them used to have major-label record contracts, and were barely scraping by. And for writers…Baen Books makes some of their books available for download, and they’ve seen sales of those books go up.

    Now if we can just apply the same principles to the patent regime. The only way America will stay ahead of the rest of the world is to out-innovate them, and in my industry at least (software), patents are turning into a huge obstruction. Overly broad patents, awarded to companies with no actual products, for 17-year terms in an industry with about a 2-year product lifecycle…the guys who actually build products are always at risk from people who spend their money on lawyers instead of programmers.

  • Eric Brunner-Williams


    Perhaps this is too close to home, but I’m profoundly disapointed by the shallowness of your post.

    If NIST was still in the business of encouraging the competitive development of operating systems, if FIPS 151-2 was an effective requirement for the governmental operating system market, if DARPA was still funding operating systems work, … then there would be a lot more diversity in the operating system market than which version of Microsoft.

    You are not Richard Stallman, you are not Len Tower, you are not Kirk McKusick, you are not Henry Spencer, you are not Linus Torvaldis… sigh. You are an incredibly minor and lately arrived figure in a long struggle over operating systems, compilers, and data transport within the industry defined by IBM, DEC, AT&T and dozens of competitors, and now is largely monopolized.

    Artistic license sounds nice, but if you can’t move a billion dollars into non-classified software development during your administration’s first term, the public is not really an actor in software.

    Both you and Howard Dean get away with progressive non-sense in cyberspace, and for the most part, you are both successfully engaging social liberals with fiscal liberitarianism. His gratuitous budget balancing caused real hardship, unnecessary hardship to the poor in Vermont. Your voluntarism in software licensing will not restart the competitive operating systems and bundled applications markets. In effect, your position is to leave 90% of the average computer users with an absurdly expensive and restrictive Microsoft end-license, some shareware, and some cosmetic “free” cruft “on the net”. Symbolic liberalism and no industrial planning except low-cost wishfull thinking just doesn’t cut the mustard.

    As much as this will seem like boosterism, Angus King’s program that put a propriatary product in the backpacks of every public school attending 7th and 8th grader in Maine — Apple laptops — is vastly smarter than hanging your campaign hat on Sourceforge and GPL variants. Angus is a real Keynseian on this one, and he isn’t even a Democrat.

    I’ve never held elected office, but I was selected by Bull, ICL, Siemens, Olivetti, and Nixdorf to write what is now the Unix Standard, and I was selected by IBM and HP and Sun to co-write what is current version of that standard. If you go the direction you have indicated, and not towards activist public policy, both regulatory and economic, you will be choosing to be industrially irrelevant. Today’s “free” digital rights management is yesterday’s burst dotcom bubble, in contemorary and individualistic rhetorical drag. I’ll stop here and give the Edwards campaign a call. I can live with his compromises, and I expect him to be effective within those limits, and it really is the economy.

  • Dee

    Yikes, Eric! Is it just possible do you suppose that Congressman Kucinich has more research to do in the matters you’ve mentioned?

    I’ll be honest and admit my complete ignorance about most of it, and I think that’s pretty much true of most of the average computer users. Given that the Congressman is trying to reach as many people as possible in a relatively short time, don’t you think it’s only natural that he would focus on specific issues important to mainstream America vs. this specific issue at this point in time? Consider also when is the time, do you think, to assist a leader in learning more about a prticular field? When he’s working furiously to be nominated or when he’s settled into a position and able to act on what he learns?

    No offense but it seems to me you’ve dismissed Congressman Kucinich over a single matter that isn’t going to win over the majority of the country. Like it or not, progressive or not, there has to be a goal in campaigning. The fact that your issue isn’t part of the main strategy doesn’t mean it isn’t something he wants to, or is willing to, address.

    You come across, to me, as wanting the man to know everything about every issue that matters to you. That’s a little unreasonable, in my opinion.

  • Jeff McHugh

    I have to write a reply to what Richard Bennet posted. Here’s what Richard said…..

    “As a father, I believe that government wouldn�t have to do this if other fathers would kindly teach their children that it�s wrong to steal. It�s also wrong to share pipe-bomb recipes, death threats, threats against the president, pornographic images of children and confidential information. Just because an expression can be reduced to a file doesn�t mean it�s automatically all right to spread it all over the world and damn the consequences.”

    Well Richard. When I was young I was taught to share with others what has been so freely given to me as a gift. Music and videos are a form of expression that brings people together. I am a musician and I’m glad to share my thoughts, feelings, and experiences with others. I think without sharing this world will cease in becoming a better and better place to live in. I want to learn from others, feel what others are feeling, and learn from artists around the world the true nature of the world. How can I do that when a price is put on expression and art is made a commodity.

    Oh and here’s another quote from Thomas Jefferson… favorite one…..

    If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the possession of every one, and the receiver cannot dispossess himself of it. Its peculiar character, too, is that no one possesses the less, because every other possesses the whole of it. He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me. That ideas should freely spread from one to another over the globe, for the moral and mutual instruction of man, and improvement of his condition, seems to have been peculiarly and benevolently designed by nature, when she made them, like fire, expansible over all space, without lessening their density in any point, and like the air in which we breathe, move, and have our physical being, incapable of confinement or exclusive appropriation. Inventions then cannot, in nature, be a subject of property. Society may give an exclusive right to the profits arising from them, as an encouragement to men to pursue ideas which may produce utility, but this may or may not be done, according to the will and convenience of the society, without claim or complaint from any body. Accordingly, it is a fact, as far as I am informed, that England was, until we copied her, the only country on earth which ever, by a general law, gave a legal right to the exclusive use of an idea. In some other countries it is sometimes done, in a great case, and by a special and personal act, but, generally speaking, other nations have thought that these monopolies produce more embarrassment than advantage to society; and it may be observed that the nations which refuse monopolies of invention, are as fruitful as England in new and useful devices.
    - Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Isaac McPherson, August 13, 1813


  • Eric Brunner-Williams


    Lets not waste time on my weaknesses and failings, which exist, or my one vote, which really doesn’t even impress my one year old, at least not as much as a slice of cucumber. There are a lot more users than there are implementors. Does the candidate have a plan that matters to implementors? Dean’s plan is to throw money at the broadband and wireless build-out wrecks, Kucinich’s plan appears to be an austerity budget for civil software. I’d like a third choice. Gore, Edwards, Gephardt, Kerry.

  • Richard Bennett

    Well Richard. When I was young I was taught to share with others what has been so freely given to me as a gift.

    And the relevance of this comment to the present discussion is what?

  • Richard Bennett

    The great political leaders aren’t the attackers (Dean) or the complainers (Kucinich), they’re the men of vision with command of the issues who articulate values and move the people to sacrifice some of their personal comfort for the common good: JFK, Reagan, Churchill, and Gandhi all had that going on. It’s a shame that with all the talent and intelligence we have in America, we can’t seem to find that sort of leader today.

    Perhaps it’s a once-a-generation thing.

  • Anonymous


    Putting your campaign statements under a CC/GPL is gratuitous buzzwording. Opening up the licensing to creative content is the concern, the unhindered disemmination of advertising (political or otherwise) is not.

    Sadly, your empty “licensing” of your blog will probably impress a fair number of the self-proclaimed techno-literati poser dittoheads who are excited by the prospect of a government leader who babbles and bumbles big words just like they do without bothering to learn what they mean.

  • Anonymous

    fortunately for your argument, JFK, Reagan, Churchill, and Gandhi all held office where they were able to “move the people to sacrifice some of their personal comfort for the common good”….

    Dean and Kucinich are candidates for that post.

  • Rob

    Also Sprach Eric Brunner-Williams:

    Your voluntarism in software licensing will not restart the competitive operating systems and bundled applications markets.

    What did you expect, an Executive Order breaking up Microsoft?

    At least Kucinich is willing to make the gesture of promoting free software. That can’t hurt. And I wouldn’t be surprised if a Kucinich administration didn’t pursue regulatory and anti-trust policies against the big software houses. Of course you have to get elected first and that’s a mighty big hurdle, especially if you declare at the outset that you’re going to go after big business hammer and tongs.

    The orbital mind control lasers thing is what gets me the most. Still cracks me up.

    Don’t forget Nader, he’s out there too.

    Back up to Mike A:

    I share LOTS of music files, but only with my friends over encrypted and firewalled tunnels. I�m within ALL legal rights to do this.

    Technically I don’t think you are. As I understand it you are legally entitled to make one backup copy of your music file and/or to put it on your personal equipment. Sharing it with friends, even in an encrypted manner, is not allowed. You still have use of the file and they didn’t pay a royalty for it. Don’t worry, I won’t rat on you.


    How can I do that when a price is put on expression and art is made a commodity.

    You live in a capitalist society; everything that doesn’t have a price is valueless. There is no revenue in valueless things. Corporations must have revenue to survive. Corporations pay salaries to people. People use their salaries to survive. Therefore, creating valueless things hurts people. I know the logic is shaky there but that’s the argument put forward by Microsoft against free software, and I think that’s the underlying argument advanced by big business against the public domain. It’s great that you release all your stuff for free; you have some other means of getting the money to buy food and pay your bills. Most musicians and artists don’t, and depend on sales of their work to make a living. Depriving them of a market for their work by one person buying it and giving perfect copies to everyone else deprives them of a living; once they starve to death or go to work 2 shifts at Wal-Mart they probably won’t be creating any more works for us. I don’t have any problem with artists having the right to get paid for use of their work.

    My problem is we have these leeches in the middle called recording and publishing companies. They don’t create anything, they just distribute what artists create. The leeches have over the years somehow convinced themselves that if they didn’t exist there would be no art, that they have a right to exist and make money off of both the artists and the consumers of art. They are flat wrong of course; but they have amassed a lot of money and the power that goes with it in a capitalist society, and they are fighting tooth and nail for their existence. They have convinced our government that they are the champions of artists, defending artists’ rights to get paid for their work. In fact they are defending their own right to leech off artists and not allow them any other avenue to distribute their work except through the industry channel, but nobody hears that story. The public only hears about kids swapping thousands of megabytes of songs illegally over taxpayer-funded university networks, or movies being copied and passed around for free hours after their release to theaters or sneak previews. Nobody can approve of that, because it obviously deprives artists of rightful compensation. So the public and government back the industry, the faithful defender of artists’ (and incidentally their own) revenue.

    If there had never been a recording industry, if there were no RIAA or MPAA, if Jack Valenti was a Burger King regional manager; do you think we would be having this same discussion? No. Because for one thing, with the leeches out of the way, CDs would probably cost about $5 instead of $15. Other works of art that suffer similarly inflated prices due to the need to pay middlemen would cost less as well; and as we all know from economics, if things cost less you generally sell more of them. Successful artists would be even more successful, and marginal ones more able to make a living.

    I’m preaching to the choir here, I suspect.

  • Mike A

    “Back up to Mike A:
    I share LOTS of music files, but only with my friends over encrypted and firewalled tunnels. I�m within ALL legal rights to do this.
    Technically I don�t think you are.”

    actually…I am, because the files I’m sharing are mp3s made from my 4-track original recordings of my own band. My point here was to illustrate that people forget that P2P filesharing is only illegal if the content is copyrighted, and the copyright owner hasn’t given you permission to share it. Call it semantics if you want, but the distinction need to be perfectly clear….if we’re “educating” kids, like Bennett requests…we might as well do it correctly.

    In other words:
    The baby is fine without being thrown out with the bathwater.

  • Rob

    Ooo, you scwewy wabbit…very sneaky of you Mike, and I am rightly chastised for my assumptions. I’m a born straight man. ;)

    Since you left out the fact that you were distributing your own music, I will say that I left out the fact that I was talking about copyrighted music purchased from another source. How ya like them apples? :)

    While we’re sandbagging on each other, do you rely on revenue from your recordings for a living? If so, how would you feel if one of your friends decided to put up copies of all of your songs on KaZaa as soon as you gave them to him? Would he remain your friend? Or are you prudent enough to not share songs you intend to charge for with your friends?

  • Eric Brunner-Williams

    Rob asked:
    What did you expect?

    A policy with a candidate attached. Gore had one.

    the gesture of promoting free software [] can�t hurt.

    Gesture is not a substitute for reality. But I blovate. Vaporware has its adherents, I’m simply not one of them.

    Don�t forget Nader, he�s out there too.

    As long as he’s letting Jamie Love think for him on tech issues, he’s wasted space. I haven’t bothered to ask since before the last cycle.

    Feel free to substitute your knowledge and experience for mine.

  • Mike A

    sorry for being sneaky…but thanx much for helping me with my point. :)

    fortunately, I don’t rely on my recordings for a living. Only a cd and a show here and there. I have the luxury of not worrying about p2p “piracy”. But I do think that stealing is wrong, and when I get music, I buy it. I am one of those few people who value the cd jacket, liner notes, packaging, just as much as the music. For the record, I think that artists should make a living, and as much as I hate what labels to do artists, the law is the law. I do make “mix” cds for friends, however, just as I did with cassettes, and feel I should be within my right to do so.

    But I do follow the thought that what the RIAA is doing is more of a knee-jerk response to not knowing how to make money selling music on the web than a really thought-out approach. Just another community filled with fear, I guess.

  • Rob

    Feel free to substitute your knowledge and experience for mine.

    I respect your knowledge and experience. Who am I to dispute someone who can use “blovate” [sp: bloviate, had to look that one up] in a sentence? :) I was just throwing his name out there for your list.

    Politics seems to be mostly vapor. I can understand a desire for something concrete for a change. Don’t get discouraged (you sound kind of down). And good luck on your candidacy.

  • Doug Kenline
  • Dee


    Just possibly your comments here will spur him to develop a position for the implementors. My main point was that he can’t be all things at one time, there has to be a focus in his campaign efforts. At this point it seems he’s trying to boost the use of creative licensing as a start, but that doesn’t necessarily mean there isn’t ongoing effort to develop a more expanded position and plan. It’s early yet, give the man some time.

  • Dee


    The zinger about the “orbital mind control laser” irked/irks me for one reason- it ignores the thrust of the bill, and that’s done all too frequently. You’re right about the humor factor, though, and apparently my sensitivity about it as well. (laughing)

    On this subject, it’s so complicated from the outset that I can’t see anyone having a real solution without spending months, if not years, just looking into the laws as they stand now, and how to free up the ability of artists to share some works while still making an income off others. I guess this is one of the drawbacks of Capitolism. Even so, it seems there ought to be some kind of workable compromise SOMEhow, somewhere.

    Hey, why not a temporary release? What if the record companies/artists copyright the works and then have a temporary release from it for a period of time. Say a one year release after the initial recording has been marketed for a year already. Release all the tracks on that album for file-sharing and free access for a one year period. Now you’ve given away a taste to people and helped solidify a fan base among people who might not have stopped to listen to the artist. After that one year period, the release expires and the copyright goes back into effect. The thing about a release like that is that it could be implemented at any time, for instance to renew interest in an artist who is on a downswing in popularity. The after one year of marketing was just a suggestion on my part.

    That’s my thought for the day. Take it for what it’s worth from someone who knows pretty much nil about copyrighting music OR file-sharing.

  • eridani

    This is what one actual artist making a living from her work has to say about it.

    One other major point: in the hysteria of the moment, everyone is forgetting the main way an artist becomes successful – exposure. Without exposure, no one comes to shows, no one buys CDs, no one enables you to earn a living doing what you love. Again, from personal experience: in 37 years as a recording artist, I’ve created 25+ albums for major labels, and I’ve never once received a royalty check that didn’t show I owed them money. So I make the bulk of my living from live touring, playing for 80-1500 people a night, doing my own show. I spend hours each week doing press, writing articles, making sure my website tour information is up to date. Why? Because all of that gives me exposure to an audience that might not come otherwise. So when someone writes and tells me they came to my show because they’d downloaded a song and gotten curious, I am thrilled!

    Who gets hurt by free downloads? Save a handful of super-successes like Celine Dion, none of us. We only get helped

  • Eric Brunner-Williams


    That was gracious. Thanks. As for seeming down, I expected more from someone who has lived poor. I don�t ask a lot from the comfortable, the Yale boys, Bush and Dean. Kucinich’s (successful, if pyric) victory in saving Cleveland’s public power really impressed me. Playing GPL zealot two decades behind the times is as fundamentally daft as Dean’s feeling free to conjecturally twiddle the retirement age and breech the social contract. Both are so utterly profoundly non-serious. I miss Al Gore.

  • Dee


    Putting your campaign statements under a CC/GPL is gratuitous buzzwording. Opening up the licensing to creative content is the concern, the unhindered disemmination of advertising (political or otherwise) is not.

    Sadly, your empty �licensing� of your blog will probably impress a fair number of the self-proclaimed techno-literati poser dittoheads who are excited by the prospect of a government leader who babbles and bumbles big words just like they do without bothering to learn what they mean.

    � posted by on Aug 15 03 at 2:10 PM

    Funny thing about the anonymous, there usually is very little to them when they choose to spout venom in public without revealing identity. Personally, I think it takes a lot more guts to speak openly as whoever you are. Even if we fall short of our intent, there is something to be said for the effort and honesty. If you have the courage of your convictions, have the courage to put yourself out there with them.

    The Congressman has, and so do I. That’s courage, that’s honesty, and that’s what America is all about. Speak up or be silent, don’t try to do both.

  • Dee

    Rob, can you help me out, please? I read this post and now I can’t find the person you quoted so I’ve completely lost the path of that conversation-

    “Feel free to substitute your knowledge and experience for mine.”

  • Rob

    Dee, it was Eric Brunner-Williams.

    It’s good to see Janis Ian’s opinions posted here. I will contribute something I watched on C-SPAN a few years ago…I wish there were a transcript available of the actual Q&A session which was quite lively, but the written testimonial record will have to suffice:

    Music on the Internet: Is There an Upside to Downloading?

    This was a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing inspired by the Napster case and the advent of Gnutella. I don’t think KaZaa existed yet, or it was very new at the time; I have never participated in P2P and didn’t keep track of such things.

    Lars Ulrich of Metallica has been roundly condemned for his testimony at this hearing, and interviews he gave on MTV, where he joined the RIAA in condemning P2P downloading of Metallica songs as theft. Nevertheless I want to quote one paragraph of his written testimony:

    I don’t have a problem with any artist voluntarily distributing his or her songs through any means the artist elects– at no cost to the consumer, if that’s what the artist wants. But just like a carpenter who crafts a table gets to decide whether to keep it, sell it or give it away , shouldn’t we have the same options? My band authored the music which is Napster’s lifeblood. We should decide what happens to it, not Napster — a company with no rights in our recordings, which never invested a penny in Metallica’s music or had anything to do with its creation. The choice has been taken away from us.

    His target was Napster, but really I think his target should have been the P2P downloaders who used Napster to distribute his group’s work for free. So substitute “P2P downloaders” everywhere you see “Napster” up there, and “people” for “a company”, and read it again. I don’t think it’s so outrageous.

    So who’s right? Lars Ulrich, or Janis Ian? Or are they both right? Should we give up the idea of copyright altogether, and accept that a career as a musician or artist means a career like Janice Ian’s? Not that that’s necessarily bad, mind you. I make no prejudgement. I think we have to think carefully and know what we’re advocating before making the career of Janis Ian the pinnacle of the musical profession in terms of monetary reward. It would be like putting a salary cap of $1 million on baseball players; it’s a lot of money to you and me and would give a comfortable life to the performer, but it’s not the maximum they could recover from the free market if they were allowed full control over their performance. Settling for less than the maximum the market will bear goes against capitalist theory, and is, dare I say it, un-American. :)

  • GFS

    i am in an independent band. if it weren’t for file sharing/the internet it would be an f’ing miracle if anyone ever heard my band. we have made our last record an ‘internet only’ release and it is entirely free. so long as people come to the internet to find mainstream bands, they will accidentally find mine.

    long gone are the days when your local radio dj “discovered” you and gave you airplay. if you aren’t in with the big boys at clearchannel, you might as well be on perpetual mute.

    so have at it:

  • Fuzzy

    > As I understand it you are legally entitled to make one backup copy of your
    > music file and/or to put it on your personal equipment. Sharing it with friends,
    > even in an encrypted manner, is not allowed. You still have use of the file and
    > they didn�t pay a royalty for it.

    Actually, sharing with friends is allowed. This is called “invite your friends over to the house to listen to some songs while drinking some cold beverages”. Colloquially known as a party. Or you might even turn up your stereo and let the rest of the family listen in while doing your homework. Nothing illegal, right?

    Oh, wait, maybe it is, since each speaker of your stereo is putting out a separate copy of the music. Maybe we should outlaw any music system that has more than one speaker element, after all having a separate woofer and tweeter is making two different copies of the music.
    And we should definitely outlaw those Y-Adapters since they are clearly allowing more than one person to listen to a separate copy of the music on their headphones.
    Oh, and having any music playing while you are on the telephone is definitely out. After all you and the person on the other end are not even in the same location. And don’t even get me started on 3-way calling and speakerphones – definitely illegal.

    Sharing music happens all the time. The idea that more than one person can hear a tape or CD at a time should not be made illegal. The fact that different people can borrow a single tape or CD from a library at different times should not be illegal. The fact that in the modern age that people can be is separate places but hearing the same material should not be illegal. The fact that in a modern digital age, the sounds and sight can be shared using a digital format should not be illegal.

    As long as the person is not trying to make money or offer someone elses work as their own, copyrights should not be entering the picture. If you are not using the recording, why shouldn’t someone else be allowed to “borrow” your copy over the network, rather than walking over to your house? If you are enjoying listening to a song, why shouldn’t a friend be able to hear the same music without walking over to your house?

    The recording industry is trying to warp and twist the meaning of the copyright beyond all recognition.

  • Pete


    I found the inclusion of Gandhi in your list of great leaders interesting. I’d agree that he was a great leader, far greater than any of the other men you listed… but it’s worth pointing out that he would have stood in direct opposition to the vast majority of principles that you’ve articulated in this forum. Why did you include him?


  • Rob

    Fuzzy, I ran across a great link today to the part of the statute describing what a “public performance” was:

    TITLE 17 > CHAPTER 1 > Sec. 101.

    Here is the relevant definition (quote):

    To perform or display a work ”publicly” means -


    to perform or display it at a place open to the public or at any place where a substantial number of persons outside of a normal circle of a family and its social acquaintances is gathered; or


    to transmit or otherwise communicate a performance or display of the work to a place specified by clause (1) or to the public, by means of any device or process, whether the members of the public capable of receiving the performance or display receive it in the same place or in separate places and at the same time or at different times.

    End quote. I think a private party would be covered by (1), unless you invited your whole neighborhood (like a block party). But it seems to me that P2P filesharing constitutes “public performance” under (2). I don’t dispute your opinion that it should not be illegal; you’re entitled to that. Just under the law as it stands, it looks illegal for copyrighted works.

    One of the (many) things that is frightening to me is the entertainment industries’ efforts to bully hardware manufacturers into “helping” us stay within the law by putting access-control components into the various media players we buy. DVD region-encoding was only the first effort. I can easily imagine a day when you have to enter keys into your CD player to “unlock” your CD so you can play it, or where your Windows Media Player will not play an mp3 file unless you downloaded it from an approved source that attached the proper key to allow it to play. This can go really really far all in the name of “protecting copyright.”

  • Nathaniel Graham

    This may have already come up, but I wanted to point out that Dennis had an excellent piece in the Nation magazine a couple of months ago entitled, “The Case for Public Patents.” His proposes legislation would make research data and findings coming out of government funded labs publicly available on a central website, just like the Human Genome project. In case anyone is interested, here’s the link:

    One more reason to vote for Kucinich!

  • Eric Brunner-Williams

    When the Research Institute of the Open Software Foundation folded up, I wrote to Hillary Orman, then a DARPA muckety-muck (since civilized to Novell) and asked for the unenumbered source to the MK++ (Mach redone, in C++, with non-trivial software architetectural clue) micro-kernel. In weeks I’d a spiffy little eXabyte tape. Four years later, there still isn’t a public funding for the dozen or so operating systems programmers that are needed to sustain a project. Availability simply isn’t sufficient, there has to be the means to do something with what is “available”. Next, there are existing public data that is politically and/or economically encumbere. Data that could, repeat, could, tend to prove that mercury in vaccines, or heavy metals in the environment, or … that exists within the CDC is actually not available for the asking. Dan Burton has been asking for this data for some time now, in fact, the EPA’s data on childhood health and the environment was held by Elli Lily’s former VP for strategic cleaverness, Mr. Mitch Daniels, Director, OMB. My point is the real is more important than the possible. There are Republicans asking for actual data that has tremendous downside risk for the vaccine adulterant industry, Lilly in particular, and tremendous scientific value for understanding the causes of autism, now more prevalent than diabeties, and DK is campaigning for what is prospective. Finally, throughout Indian Country, the HGP is viewed with concern, bio-piracy is a real problem, and “freeing everything” will be simply bio-piracy on a grander scale.

    Baldrick’s clever plans always sound good at first hearing, that one of the chamring things about the Black Adder sketch.

  • Richard Bennett

    Pete, you’re a silly boy. Granted, Gandhi never actually lead a country, just a movement, he’s still someone that we can respect as a leader. And I have no information that would support your theory that he would support theft of music or that he would be opposed to stateful network layer protocols.

    I once knew some people who worked with Gandhi in the Swaraj movement, and they said he was a pretty swell all-around guy, with a bit of a temper where his wife was concerned, but generally OK. I have no reason to doubt them.

    One example of the little guy’s leadership was his putting the Swaraj movement on hold during WW II, when several others wanted to take advantage of Britain’s preoccupation with a man holding Buchanan/Kucinich positions on trade and Israel to accelerate the independence struggle. He was a stand-up guy on that issue, and on many others as well.

  • Eric Brunner-Williams

    Four substantive entries. Dennis Kucinich’s five days before the mast came off better than Howard Dean’s. I’ve read every comment (several times) during both weeks. The one comment that really stands out for me was made by a Kucinich Campaign volunteer, who wrote about mimicry and learning.

    There were just under 300 comments, far too many of which were mine, like this one. I’m off on holiday now.

  • Pete


    Thanks for responding. It’s kind of unfortunate that you chose to call me silly and use a straw man argument about stealing music instead of responding meaningfully to my question. I wasn’t questioning Gandhi as an example of leadership, but I did wonder about the logic of naming him given your positions on IP.

    Gandhi certainly regarded theft as inappropriate, but his feelings on property were fairly radical and probably don’t match well with your own. He would have taken issue with any model for intellectual property favoring the interests of one group over those of the broader community. I have no doubt that he would have advocated boycotts and other actions to help a given industry understand that its policies are counter productive, including the illegal use of materials that would better serve the community’s interests if they were brought into the commons. A couple clear examples of this would be the salt march and the drive to use home spun cloth. This is where I see a significant disconnect between your positions… hence my confusion at your decision to include him in your post.

    I doubt you’ll even see this post, but if you do I’d be interested to read a bit about your take on him as a leader within the context of his feelings on property. Feel free to drop me a line directly if you like – pwelsch at indiana dot edu.

    Be well,


  • ryan

    A comment was made earlier “Who is right, Lars or Janis?” or something to that effect.

    I believe both.

    I tend to agree that just because you can trade a file doesn’t mean you should or should be allowed to.

    No one advocates photocopying novels and handing them out on street corners.

    On the otherhand, any artist would be insane NOT to freely distribute their music online.

    The indirect benefits of a potential listenership 100s of thousands of people larger than traditionally possible, far outweighs any direct costs in lost CD sale.

    The only thing that worries me about file trading is the shift aways from albums to singles.

    For me the album is the work of art and should be experienced as a whole. Each song, obviously i a work in it’s own right and can be enjoyed as such. But, just like a series of painting when experienced together the works take on another level of enriched meaning and insight.

  • Try again

    “Yes, we did produce a near-perfect republic. But will they keep it? Or will they, in the enjoyment of plenty, lose the memory of freedom?”
    - Thomas Jefferson in a letter to John Adams

    Well, they lost it. If Jefferson were around today, he’d be living in Montreal and pretending not to speak English.
    Certainly there he could sit in cafes and deep-kiss Sally Hemings and no one would care. Even his funky knee socks would fit in.
    Also he’d like Canadian constitutional review, Quebec isolationist pacifism, publicly owned universities, and tolerance written into the Constitution.
    He’d want nothing to do with that thing flying that ugly 50-starred imperialist flag – and he’d dodge the draft if he came back during the 1960s.

    Time to break up the state, pick new regional capitals, and try again.

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