December 31, 2007  ·  Lessig

ASCAP’s essay, “Common Understanding: 10 Things Every Music Creator Should Know About Creative Commons Licensing” nicely highlights some important considerations that any musician should review before using a CC license. Unfortunately, however, it also continues some common misunderstandings about Creative Commons. I’ve reprinted, and responded, to these in the extended entry below. But before the details, there is one important fact of agreement to keep in view, and one important disagreement:

We certainly agree with ASCAP that “music creators should fully understand the terms to which they are agreeing and the implications down the line.” That applies to CC licenses as much as to a recording contract. And we’re as keen as anyone to make sure that understanding is there.

But it is not the case that CC asserts that “artists should give up all or some of their rights” — if by that ASCAP means either that we believe giving up “all or some of their rights” always benefits an author or artists, or that, benefit notwithstanding, an artist should sacrifice his or her rights for the common good. Neither is correct. We know that sometimes, freer access helps. We provide tools to make it easier for artists to enable freer access. We also believe that when making creative work freely available doesn’t hurt, and sometimes helps, the culture is benefited by choosing freedom rather than licensing lawyers. And finally, we believe that some forms of creative work — e.g., the work of scientists, or governments — should be freely available. But that normative claim is far from the work we do with the authors or artists that ASCAP deals with. Our business with respect to them is not to exhort them to charity. Artists and authors have it bad enough without a bunch of nerdy lawyer-types trying to pile on more guilt.

Now to the end of correcting some misunderstandings, the corrections of what ASCAP has said:

From ASCAP’s “Common Understanding”:

1. Irrevocability – All the CC licenses are “irrevocable” – meaning they cannot be changed or revoked; once you place a work under a CC license, the meta-data travels with the digital version of your work – forever.

True, sort of. It is one of the most important features (and some believe, bugs) of CC licenses that the offer, once accepted, is irrevocable. That has nothing to do with the “meta-data.” It has everything to do with the license. Some believe (and I’m one of the some) that CC licenses should at least be term limited (so, e.g., you give a CC license for 5 years, or something like that). But the CC board has not been persuaded of the wisdom of that limitation. And ASCAP is right to make this the most prominent feature for its artists to consider about CC licenses.

This provision conflicts with a creator’s absolute right under the U.S. Copyright Act to end any license or contract regarding a creator’s work after 35 years (generally speaking), no matter what the license or contract says. This right of termination can be very valuable, particularly if a work “breaks through,” but there is no apparent way to exercise your termination rights under a CC license.

This, at best, is a confusion. If the right to “terminate transfers” applies to a CC license, then the law trumps the license. There’s no way a license can “conflict[] with a creator’s absolute right under the U.S. Copyright Act.” (And btw: if you’re interested in terminating a transfer, Creative Commons is building a handy tool to help you do it. Check out our beta here.)

2. Waiving Royalties – Most CC licenses ask creators to waive the ability to collect royalties – including from public performance rights.

This is simply untrue. “Most CC licenses” are “noncommercial.” As the license expressly states:

“… where the Work is a musical composition: Performance Royalties Under Blanket Licenses. Licensor reserves the exclusive right to collect whether individually or, in the event that Licensor is a member of a performance rights society (e.g. ASCAP, BMI, SESAC), via that society, royalties for the public performance or public digital performance (e.g. webcast) of the Work if that performance is primarily intended for or directed toward commercial advantage or private monetary compensation.”

Or put more simply, the license explicitly DOES NOT “waive the ability to collect royalties – including from public performance rights”

Such a waiver illustrates that these licenses are for people who do not make a living primarily from their creative work. For example, academics and scientists enjoy salaried positions, with health care and often with university or subsidized housing. Independent songwriters and composers have no such luxuries.

Fair enough: Where CC licenses do “waive” royalties, one very good reason to do so is that the creator has already been paid to create the work. CC licenses give the creator the freedom to so say.

3. Confusions Over “Noncommercial Use” – Many CC licenses are for “noncommercial use.” While this would seem to preclude a creator’s work from being unfairly exploited for monetary gain, a problem immediately arises: there is no definition of “noncommercial use” under the U.S. Copyright Act. Though there are a few narrow exemptions for “noncommercial performances,” all other uses of creative works should be licensed, either by the creator or otherwise licensed by reason of a compulsory license. Even “non-commercial” PBS and NPR pay license fees for their right to perform music in their broadcasts and on their websites.

Again, this is a confusion. True, there is a difficult line to draw between “commercial” and “noncommercial use.” (Though we’ve just received a $300,000 grant from Mellon to help us do research about attitudes related to that distinction). But the line is not drawn from “the U.S. Copyright Act.” It is defined in the license. Whether or not Congress has defined the term, property law gives property owners (i.e., copyright owners) the right to license their work however they want. The license is simply an expression of that freedom.

To further complicate matters, CC licenses define peer-to-peer file sharing as “noncommercial” – a position with which the United States Supreme Court has disagreed and is otherwise at odds with U.S. law.

Huh? The “United States Supreme Court” has said nothing, and, more importantly, could have nothing to say, about whether a copyright owner is allowed to grant freedoms to users for a particular use, such as p2p file sharing. Again, the freedom to grant freedoms is part of what copyright law gives a copyright owner. This freedom is certainly not “at odds with [at least this provision of] U.S. law.”

4. No Support for Rights Enforcement – There is no support for rights enforcement under the Creative Commons system. There is no larger organization, like an ASCAP, to enforce the scope of creators’ rights under these licenses.

This is absolutely correct. Creative Commons is not permitted to defend the licenses, without transforming itself into a law firm. As we’ve indicated, we’re working with others to provide legal referrals (pro bono and not) to CC license users who need their rights defended. But we haven’t the freedom or the capacity to provide legal services.

Creators are on their own when, for example, the boundaries of a non-commercial CC license are breached, and the creator finds out the work is being exploited for compensation by another.

But this doesn’t follow at all. Indeed, one of the most rewarding things that I’ve seen from the CC movement has been the extraordinary community of support that has developed to defend creators when their CC-licensed work has been misused. I’ve written about some examples of this. My favorite recent is the war that has broken out in Columbia about a newspaper’s improper use of a CC licensed photograph. CC didn’t invent copyright infringement. But if your stuff is CC licensed, then (to borrow an EFF slogan), you’ve got a posse.

Creators who have not obtained a U.S. Copyright Registration for a CC licensed work, will also find out that they have no standing to even sue in a U.S. Court, and thus, are left with few realistic options for recourse.

Huh, again? Every domestic copyright owner seeking to sue in a U.S. court must register his or her work before he can file suit. This has nothing to do with CC licenses.

5. Potential Global Conflicts – CC licenses are global, which can complicate a creator’s ability to enforce his or her rights when those rights are violated. Normally a work’s creator can control the geographic territory in which a work is used – or appoint representatives to do so. For example, ASCAP relies on a global network of Performing Rights Organizations to license and collect royalties for performances of ASCAP members’ works in other countries. The global nature of the Creative Commons system can interfere with the support and income offered by these types of existing rights infrastructures.

Copyright law internationally is complicated. National borders, or geographically limited licenses, make it even more complicated. CC licenses don’t add that complexity into the mix. That makes it easier for CC users, and CC licensors. It may well make it harder for collecting rights societies. That’s unfortunate.

6. Non-Exclusivity – CC licenses are “nonexclusive,” which means that the work’s creator will have no future ability to enter into exclusive deals for a work licensed under the Creative Commons system. In the entertainment industry, producers may want exclusive rights to use, for example, a musical work as the signature theme for a television show or an advertisement. Such an opportunity could be lost to the creator of a work licensed under a CC license.

This is sort of true, but misleading. CC licenses are non-exclusive for the things you’re licensing. They don’t affect the things you’re not licensing. Thus, if you license noncommercial use, then that is a nonexclusive license. You can have many licenses covering the same ground. But even if the world has the right to noncommercial uses, you still have the right to license commercial rights, exclusively. Again, the CC license doesn’t touch those rights.

Will nonexclusive licensing of noncommercial rights block the ability of a creator to license the work exclusively, commercially? It may. And for this reason, it is a great point to flag, especially for musicians who rely upon royalties for their living. But we’ve seen lots of examples of creators who have been able to license their work (at least noncommercially) under a CC license while maintaining exclusive commercial licensing rights. ccMixter is a site full of these examples. All of the remix contests run on that site include CC licensed music that the artist maintained exclusive commercial rights to. These artists include: DJ Vadim, Salman Ahmad, Vieux Farka Toure, (©urve)™, Christopher Willits, Fort Minor, Crammed Disc, Cibelle, DJ Dolores, Apollo Novem Copyright Criminals, and Lisa Debenedictis.

7. The Issue of Co-Creators – CC licenses can cause complications for works created by more than one individual. Under the U.S. Copyright Act, unless they have a written agreement otherwise, each “co-creator” has the right to license the work on a non-exclusive basis without the consent of their co-creator. Each co-creator’s responsibility is to ensure that the other co-creator receives a share of profits. But what happens when a co-creator places a work under a CC license? If a license eliminates the possibility for payment on that work, and extends both globally and forever, the other co-creator is essentially out of luck.

No, this is not correct. A co-author has the right to license his work however he’d like, so long as the license does not constitute “waste.” If the use of a CC license is arguably beneficial, then it would be permitted. If it is not, then it would not. So if you’re a co-author, you need to make sure that the kind of free licensing you’re offering is not harmful. If it is not harmful, then the CC license is again just one of the ways the law permits the copyright owner to exercise the rights that copyright has granted him or her.

8. Lack of Distinction Between Types of Uses – CC licenses do not distinguish between types of uses. A music creator’s submission of a work to a CC license means that he or she allows the work to be performed, copied, distributed or even synchronized to an audiovisual work. This can lead not only to lost financial opportunity,

This is an important point to highlight. CC licenses cover all the possible uses of a work. So rather than needing to license the distribution right, the reproduction right, the performance right, etc., you get all those rights (subject to whatever conditions are imposed) in one block. (The key exception is the derivative right, which can be licensed separately.)

This simplification helps in many contexts. But no doubt, it is not appropriate in all contexts. And thus the copyright owner needs to be very careful about whether the freedom s/he is granting is really a freedom s/he wants to grant.

… but also a conflict of ideology. If a creator gives up control over the use of his or her song, that song could end up being synchronized with an audio-visual work that promotes a point of view offensive to the creator and the creator will be without any remedy.

Not quite. It is true that if the copyright owner has licensed this derivative use, then s/he can’t stop it. But the entity using the work cannot assert endorsement, and the creator does have the right to forbid attribution back to the creator.

9. Prohibition of DRM – CC licenses prohibit use of digital rights management (DRM).

This is not correct. CC licenses restrict how a licensee (i.e., the person licensing the work from the copyright owner) uses DRM. S/he can’t use DRM in a way that blocks a right granted by the license. But the license does not forbid copyright owners from using DRM. Some think it should. But ASCAP is wrong to say that it does.

DRM is a core element in today’s digital music arena and a component of most tracks distributed by major labels or sold through top online venues. If a song is successful, distribution channels using DRM will not be an option for a creator who has submitted their work to a CC license.

And again I say, huh? Have you been reading the newspapers, ASCAP? Only one major label still insists on DRM (Sony). Every other major, and many many independents, have given up DRM long ago.

10. No “Authentication” When a Work Is Submitted – Even if a creator doesn’t want to submit his or her work to a CC license, someone else can. How? Because there is no “authentication” as to whether the true owner of a piece of creative content is the one applying for the CC license. Any person can go to the Creative Commons website with a digital song file or photograph, follow the instructions online and claim it as his or her own and release your work, without your consent, to the “commons.”

This is another confusion. I suspect the confusion comes from something ASCAP wrote before it enumerated its “10 things every music creator should know”: As it wrote:

To submit a work to be governed under a CC license, creators click on symbols and icons for attribution, “share alike” or noncommercial uses, and then upload a digital copy of their work.

But CC doesn’t ask, or require, people to “upload a digital copy of their work.” We provide tags people can add to work presented elsewhere that expresses what rights someone has in that work. It is true we don’t require “authentication” before we permit someone to associate a tag with a work. So there’s no technology that would stop me from taking a Madonna song and adding a CC license to it.

Neither, however, is there any technology that stops me from taking a Madonna song and adding a royalty-for-me license to it. What stops this is copyright law. If someone purports to license a work that he has no rights to license, he has violated the law of copyright. The DMCA provides a simple way for the copyright owner to complain about this. And if the work is on the web, that tool requires the website operator to remove the offending work.

We in fact have built the same technology into the tools we provide attach licenses to objects — like an MP3. Our protocols give the licensor the ability to provide an authenticating link-back for the license. If the license proves invalid, a DMCA claim can get the authenticating page taken down. So in this sense, we go one step beyond the standard protocol for digital objects, providing a minimal form of ex post authentication.

Under U.S. Copyright Law, creators already have the right to waive their rights, give their works away for free or permit the use of their music for sampling or mash-ups, without necessarily giving up their ownership rights.

I’m not sure this wrap up paragraph was meant to apply to us. We (unlike a record label, for example) don’t require anyone to “giv[e] up their ownership rights.” Indeed, to the contrary, CC’s aim is to give the copyright owner a simple ability to exercise those rights as s/he wants.

Again, the owner needs to understand his rights, and understand how a license intends to modify them. We (always) need to do a better job in making that clear. ASCAP does as well.

ASCAP historically has played a crucially important role in helping artists get paid for their work. Today, the nonexclusive ASCAP agreement is a model for collecting rights societies internationally. In my view, we will and should always have collecting rights societies to help authors and artists deal with the burden of collecting royalties where they want royalties to be collected. The only question is how public policy can help make sure these societies are competitive and efficient. The US has done a good job in that respect. Other countries, not so good. But nothing in CC’s mission has anything to do with displacing the proper functioning of efficient and well run collecting rights organizations. Were I to write one of these top ten list of “common understandings,” that would be at the very top.

  • Gavin Baker

    Artists and authors have it bad enough without a bunch of nerdy lawyer-types trying to pile on more guilt.

    What about a bunch of nerdy user-types? Or nerdy citizen-types?

    Is guilt the only reason why an artist might choose free licensing if it might hurt them? Can there be no appeal to do the right thing on the basis of solidarity or personal responsibility?

    I know you’re concerned with protecting CC’s public image, and don’t want CC to be seen as anti-artists’ interests. But I wish you’d moderate your language and try to avoid throwing your allies under the bus.

  • Tristan Spill

    Thanks for the clarification. I know some don’t get the jibe “nerdy lawyer-types.” I actually thought that was quite funny considering the audience. Anyway just pointing out a silly little typo in this article …

    >> Some think is should.

    This should read … Some think IT should.

  • kevin

    Awfully nice of ASCAP to create further confusion in an already confused space. Though it’s not surprising when I think of all the starving musicians they help feed at their soup kitchen. Sorry for the sarcasm, I’m tired of hearing about impoverished musicians and industry-wide hardship.

    I don’t even know where to start in responding or commenting on this story. It breaks down into a basic conflict of interest derived FUD, but with subtle tones of irony.

    One part of it all specifically sticks out for me, I’ve commented before on my thoughts with regard to a “non-commercial” license which pays fees to collecting agencies. The fact that this is one of the focal points of ASCAPs arguments against the license, well…..

    I personally don’t care about signed artists dip-contributing to the CC pool, which is pretty much (in my mind) the reason for the NC license (a commercially protective sandbox). Signed/registered artists are the only ones who ever stand to benefit monitarily from the non-waivered fee clause.

    It seems to me the majority of composers and musicians who are unsigned (and unregistered with a collection agency) from the outset, when choosing a CC license are often better advised to choose an all together different license (SA for instance). Then they can at least earn beer money from ads on their blog, be played by ad-funded podcasts/internet stations etc. Far too many are foxed by the wording of the NC license and assume it refers simply to Non Commercial derivs (in other words a protection from outside big-business sources), without realising they are sandboxing their creation. Many websites also default to NC or dummy down to NC (ccMixter for instance).

    I can’t imagine why the ASCAP folks focused on NC, I’d have thought they’d have picked on the SA and BY licenses in an attempt to have the waivers removed. Or maybe it’s a devious, clever strategy to highlight the paradox that is the CC Non-Commercial license.

  • Eric

    Since the overall context of the ASCAP piece seems to be a casting of doubt upon the integrity of the CC paradigm, it MUST NOT be understated that ASCAP keeps a percentage of every dollar they collect for “administrative costs”. With that said, any system that grows the pool of content that they cannot touch will obviously be viewed by them as some sort of threat to their way of doing things. Even the NC license would be suscpicious to them in this light, since the amount of money they’re able to collect on such licensed work is reduced by virtue of the other freedoms the CC license extends. ASCAP’s statements are not surprising with that being said; it was only a matter of time. What is surprising is that ASCAP is so willing to amplify the schism between the substantial (and growing) number of artists who see the benefits of CC and those who’d rather not change. Unfortunate, since those CC-artists who stand to benefit from ASCAP membership might also be the ones feeling alienated by their stance.

  • Rob

    ASCAP is right in that everyone should read the fine print. But the implication that CC is malodorous is obnoxious. Consider: How many creative types make a living off their creativity, and how many do not? I suspect the latter exceed the former in number by several orders of magnitude. I count myself among the latter. And to me, CC is the right thing to do. I have no hope nor desire to profit from my ad-hoc creativity, so why not let the rest of the world benefit? ASCAP would have me believe that I would only be creative if I could make money off it, or if I make a creative work, I have to keep everyone away from it with guns.

    What a shitty world that would be.

  • Kris Bergstrom

    Thank you for this great article. As a musician with Free Culture ideals, I have had a hard time understanding how the various CC licenses interact with ASCAP and BMI licensing.

    As a plea to the CC folks, I feel there are many of us who very much miss the simple, Share-Alike license (without Attribution). For music, it was the license closest to the GPL. I worry very much about the long-term affects of an Attribution requirement and would love to find discussions about the practical outcomes of the Attribution requirement.

  • Chris Ward

    The work of publically-funded scientists should be ‘free’; either ones employed by the government, or ones employed by the private sector working on publically-funded contracts.

    Scientists working for private businesses ? That should be under the control of their managers. May be open, may be more restricted.

    Frustrates the scientists no end …. they want to publish and be recognised … but that is the way of business.

  • Eric

    s/Some think is should/Some think it should/

  • Randy Paul

    Since the overall context of the ASCAP piece seems to be a casting of doubt upon the integrity of the CC paradigm, it MUST NOT be understated that ASCAP keeps a percentage of every dollar they collect for “administrative costs”.


    As a former 20 year ASCAP employee laid off in March 2005, I can assure you that senior management at ASCAP is obsessed with keeping its administrative costs low. Salaries have been driven down over the past few years, raises have hewed close to the CPI and are rarely based on merit. Layoffs occur with regularity and not as a result of performance issues. I was laid off not long after my department (broadcast licensing)had its best year ever.

    Trust me: no one affiliated with ASCAP except the upper echelons of senior management and the membership who receive significant amounts of royalties are getting much money. Their operating ratio runs about 14% of every dollar, meaning that about 86 cents goes to the membership. For an organization that extols the virtues of defending its members rights, the kindest thing I can say is that its position towards its employees has become contemptible over the past 8-10 years.

    I also happen to be acquainted with the author of that article linked to in this post. The numerous errors do not surprise me in the least.

  • Steve Baba

    “Since the overall context of the ASCAP piece seems to be a casting of doubt upon the integrity of the CC paradigm, it MUST NOT be understated that ASCAP keeps a percentage of every dollar they collect for “administrative costs”. With that said, any system that grows the pool of content that they cannot touch will obviously be viewed by them as some sort of threat to their way of doing things.”

    This is late-night back-of-the-envelope economics analysis, but these composer groups do not get paid on a fee per play. They get a flat fee per establishment/bar/city/college and so on.

    Unless Creative Commons and public domain material gets so popular that establishments can opt out of contracts by not playing any of the organization’s music, I can’t see the demand or price changing in any way.

    The only change would be fewer members to split the flat blanket fee between.

  • victor

    You know, I’d find ASCAP’s points on CC a lot more credible after they publish the top 10 reasons why signing with a major label is 95% guaranteed to end your music career.

  • Will R.

    Professor Lessig, I’m curious what you’re doing to make sure this information disseminated beyond those who regularly read your blog (or Boing Boing, which is where I ended up finding it). Have you contacted ASCAP? Were they receptive?

  • Sera

    THAT’s all fine and dandy in a utopia world dripping with milk & honey but…

    ASSCAP is trying to pump up their membership – aka their “VENUE WHOPPING CLUB” by cutting up the Creative Commons on a complicated intellectual level. Geesh* I took first grade math all the way to college level statistics and no matter how you slice it 1/2 of nothing is still NOTHING!

    After 30 plus years of membership with ASSCAP (not a typo) as a songwriter (what a crock of shyt!), FOUR Air Platinum Record Plaques equaling FOUR MILLION air plays and then some, & SIX 2003 GRAMMY NOMINATIONS later AND I STILL have NEVER EVER EVER collected NOT EVEN ONE FREAKIN RED CENT in royalties from ASSCAP!!!

    Professor Lessig, after ASSCAP’s track record with me I would pick a CC license any day of the week!

    ASSCRAP is full of Shyt past their eyebrows right along with the RIAA.


  • Sera

    THAT’s all fine and dandy in a utopia world dripping with milk & honey but…

    ASSCAP is trying to pump up their membership – aka their “VENUE WHOPPING CLUB” by cutting up the Creative Commons on a complicated intellectual level. Geesh* I took first grade math all the way to college level statistics and no matter how you slice it 1/2 of nothing is still NOTHING!

    After 30 plus years of membership with ASSCAP (not a typo) as a songwriter (what a crock of shyt!), FOUR Air Platinum Record Plaques equaling FOUR MILLION air plays and then some, & SIX 2003 GRAMMY NOMINATIONS later AND I STILL have NEVER EVER EVER collected NOT EVEN ONE FREAKIN RED CENT in royalties from ASSCAP!!!

    Professor Lessig, after ASSCAP’s track record with me I would pick a CC license any day of the week!

    ASSCRAP is full of Shyt past their eyebrows right along with the RIAA.


  • steveballmer

    The Creative Commons license is very weak! Our lawyers could rip through one of them in an hour!

  • Lothar Bizenberger

    How to legalize movie and music video download, without losing the creative power of file sharing communities and without violating copyrights?

    The, what you refer to as RW (read write) society is only one part of the online piracy. The other part is the movies which can be watched or downloaded from the net.
    From my point of view there are three interests to consider in the discussion about these online publications. The two main interests of the artists are: First, the artists are losing money or to be more precise does not earn all the money they deserve. Second the combination of music, pictures or videos which are not in agreement with the artist’s purpose of the creation.

    The main interest of the user is to have fast and free access to music and movies.

    Proper advertisement could serve everybody’s purpose. When I today listened to Alicia Keys-no one- on YouTube, I was the 23,228,995 person to do so. It is certain to me that the advertisement running on this YouTube side brings enough money to compensate for the fact that I will not buy the album.
    Revering back to the new combination of music and video, probably many artists would not mind seeing their song playing with a cartoon if there would be advertisement on the internet page and the money earned by this ad would end up in their pockets.

    With proper advertisement we hopefully will have more free online movies and music without violating any copyrights.

  • Antonio Adolfo

    There are no doubts that CC is an attempt to create preset contracts/licenses and regulation to cover Internet use of intellectual/artist creation. There are no doubts also that CC is a natural consequence of the needs of the Internet to have such licenses covering the law.
    On the other hand it seems that CC is still missing maturity to face all the copyright needs and meanders. As we can see – and CC is/should be aware – there are still numerous gaps on the licenses, such as clarity on several points regarding copyright.
    The deepest question in my opinion – and then it is important to think globally – is that once the copyright owners are not aware and conscious of their rights (copyright), and under the premise that the s/he has the right to decide what they “want” – imagine creators and copyright owners from third world Countries, people without any knowledge of copyright, considering that even creators and copyright owners from developed parts of the world don’t know much about it – they start to sign absurd under the mantle and “protection’ of such licenses without even knowing what they are signing.
    Anyone should have the right of sign whatever s/he wants but, before all, it urges that s/he has conscious of what s/he is signing.
    To impose such licenses to third world countries creators and/or copyright owners doesn’t seem to be the most appropriate way.
    Almost the totality of the copyright owners don’t know even what is copyright and much less the meaning of Creative Commons.
    It should be necessary that, before giving the option to the people to sign whatever they want, that they learn at least some basics about copyright and its developments – it should even be a premise to join a Performing Rights Society or to be considered a professional musician, for example. If even in developed Countries that is still an enigma, can you imagine what a tragedy would be in such other Countries?
    I think that before imposing or presenting certain types of licenses it would be necessary to create a regulation of the Internet and its uses, not starting with presets licenses, but with the rules and regulations of the Internet itself with regard of the use of intellectual/artistic creation by the websites in general and others. To develop the collecting and distribution of creation rights regarding Internet uses, for example.
    The reality is that the big companies are and will be always protected by copyright laws – with or without CC – and the creators will be more and more on its way of being extinguished.
    The regulation itself – not a dozen of preset contracts signed with/by the poor creators should be the beginning – is much more urgent.
    Antonio Adolfo
    musician, educator and composer

  • Jessica

    Stevebalmer – “The Creative Commons license is very weak! Our lawyers could rip through one of them in an hour!”


    If you’re saying that there are drafting flaws in the CC licences that should be fixed – fine, great, tell us what they are and we’ll fix them. Or better yet, work with us to fix them.

    But if you you have issues with the fundamental principles of/model used by CC, that’s a whole different issue. In my experience most of the time when people criticise the CC licences as being ‘weak’ they’re really saying they don’t agree with the idea of open content licensing/CC in general, and that they think musicians are in a stronger position if they license on a case by case basis. That’s fine, but that’s not a criticism of the licences – that’s a criticism of the philosophy of the movement.

    The CC licences are all signed off by lawyers in their various jurisdictions – and usually by big firms acting on a pro-bono basis. These people seem to think that they’re legally sound. And so far the courts agree with them – in Curry v Audax the lawyers hired by the tabloid didn’t ‘rip through them’.

    Simply making sweeping statements without anything to back them up is hardly an argument.

  • The Bus King

    Hi, I just watched the Lawrence Lessig “Basement Tapes Project” video on the free culture movement , and have been following some of the posts here. Not sure if this is exactly the best place to ask this, but I figure there are some readers here that might be able to help me. I have a question…
    I just started to “cyber busk” on my website,, and I’m wondering if I’m doing anything illegal. I provide my music (almost all covers for now) for free. However, I have a tip jar where someone can donate via a credit card. I’m also generating revenue through a few google ads I placed on the site. I only started it about a week ago, and I’m under the radar with profits, but I’m just wondering if anyone out there knows if what I’m doing is illegal. I think what I’m doing is sort of new, and I may be falling through some loophole. I’m not selling the music, and it’s not entirely certain for which song someone might “tip” for. Could this be a new way for artists to make a profit from the work, without actually “selling” their work?
    You can see what I’m doing here:

    Any suggestions from Mr. Lessig or any people reading this would be much appreciated.
    - Josiah Altschuler

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  • Timothy Chima Obialo

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    4. Except as otherwise provided herein, you hereby grant to us for the Period [two years]: (a) All the rights that you own or acquire publicly to perform, and to license others to perform, [...] in any and all places and in any and all media, [...] any part or all of the Works ["the Works" being all music composed by you during the two-year "Period," and prior to the Period except those in which there is an outstanding grant of the right of public performance to a person other than a BMI-affiliated publisher].

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    I’m using this initial period of “social distancing” to kickstart my music career. Having scrawled my intent in this seemingly stable corner of cyberspace, we can look back in another 12 years, and laugh at all some of the madness.

    Thank you!

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    Executive Curator, Kronos Expo 2032