Thoughts On Creative Commons Licensing

You may or may not have noticed that at the bottom of the Bandcamp page for each of my albums and tracks, instead of the little copyright symbol, there’s a ‘Creative Commons’ license note, with a symbol and the phrase ‘some rights reserved’.

Creative Commons licensing is a way of putting a legal framework around allowing people the share/remix/reuse your work for non-profit/non-commercial purposes while maintaining your right to license for-profit usage as you always have done. So if you want to give a copy of one of my albums you downloaded to a friend, it’s perfectly legal to do so. Ditto if you do a slideshow of your favourite pictures for friends and family and use my music as the soundtrack. If you want to make a documentary for school, or even for film festivals that you’re not getting paid for, that’s also legal, so long as the work remains unchanged (I might shift this at some point, still working up to it 😉 ) and I’m credited as the author/performer.

If you are making a TV Show, Film, Commercial, Corporate video, then we need to sort out proper licensing terms, in which you pay me an agreed fee for a license to use the music for that purpose.

The reason for this is simple – I want people to share my music with their friends. The internet is an awesome sharing platform. It’s a great environment in which to discover new music, and I want to make it as easy as possible for people to discover my music. I also try as hard as I can to make it easier to get directly from me than it is to get from anywhere else.

The vast majority of the sharing of my music happens by people forwarding links to the places on MY site where you can download it. Why? Because it’s easier! How does it benefit me? Well, people are then in my space (not MySpace, no-one should ever be there 😉 ) – they’re on my site, with all that that entails:

  • links to my other things,
  • an opportunity to hear my other music,
  • read my blog,
  • and of course to pay what they think the music is worth…

Pricing doesn’t get in the way of discovery, it just allows people to be a part of the ongoing economics of making the music happen.

I don’t want to force people to break the law just to share my music with their friends. I don’t want to drive people away from my site looking for a free source of my music – I’d rather they got it from me, and came back, so that if and when their emerging sense of the value in what I do gets to the point where they put a cash value on it, they’re getting it in the place where they can express that and pay for it in the simplest way. They are also doing it in a place where they can thank me, and send the links to their friends simply.

Sharing is good.
I want my music shared.
I want people to find it.
And, through it, to find me.

I want to connect with them, and to build ongoing relationships between my musical journey and the lives of people who choose it as their soundtrack.

Creative Commons licensing allows me to do that without disprespecting the law, or handing my creative work to others to exploit for their financial gain. It’s the best of every world, for me.


Footnote: You may have seen (especially if you’re an american songwriter) the ‘attack’ on Creative Commons written by ASCAP – it was, frankly, insane, and there have been a couple of marvellous responses. This one on the CC site, and this one from Larry Lessig. Bottom line – use CC licenses if they work for you, or don’t if they don’t. They ARE a Copyright license. You are in control of how your work is used, and if you want people to share it, this is a great way to make that possible.

…and here’s a great CC-licensed album, from Ben Walker:

7 Replies to “Thoughts On Creative Commons Licensing”

    1. The music on them is now 🙂 At the time I last released a CD on my label (2006!!) I didn’t know about CC at all. I was probably still mired in All Rights thinking…

      But now that the same music and recordings has been relicensed at CC, the effective license on all of it is that… 🙂 So yes, please share the music from the CDs too!

  1. I’ve used the Creative Commons license for a few years for exactly the reasons you state. It’s helpful (if not essential) for Independent musicians to be more open to the public.

  2. Have to say i’m fully supportive of CC licensing and starting to explore other areas it could be applied… to see Bandcamp adopting this is frankly awesome, and bravo for taking the plunge!

    However I do keep running into arguments with others in the creative industries who really see CC as a threat… and i’m not just talking businesses, but individual creatives too.

    They’re of the opinion that CC only serves to dilute the value of their work, and would destroy any chance of capitalising on it. At which point i’d counteract that the “traditional” ways of trading “work” are, effectively, becoming an advert for the artist.

    For example, gaining wider attention through the sharing of recordings, in order to drive ticket sales for live performances…

    I license all of my photography via Flickr under a CC license, and i’ve seen my photos repurposed and credited back to me! I’d much rather give permission upfront via CC to do this, and see it happen, then sit somewhere gathering dust on a server.

    Who knows, the more widely circulated the “free” work is, the higher the chances of perhaps being commissioned… and that’s the part i think the nay-sayers miss.

    There certainly is no such thing as bad publicity, and if you can get something *you’ve made* to go viral (and I use that in the loosest sense) then how can that possibly be a bad thing?

    It’ll definitely be interesting to see where this goes!

  3. Creative Commons is a really important culture. Perhaps it’s sad that these things need regulation but the work of CC is incredibly useful.

    I think we are in a pivotal stage where intelectual property culture could shift to one of sharing and respect rather than the culture of mistrust and fear fostered by ASCAP and the old-world mechanisms.

    It is important to respect the terms of CC licenses, non-commercial use, no derivative works (if that’s your preference Steve) and most importantly share alike.

  4. Creative Commons is great. It says “I’m free to share” and at the same time it says “Hey, I’m covered by a license”. I’ve seen legal people freak out at this definition. One great thing about it is, a greater amount of control&flexibility, so it allows other licenses to exist alongside it. Even if you have (cc)-d your work, you can still re-license part of it for other purposes.

    I think it’s right up the arse of some industry folk who still seem to think nothing should be free because it kills paid stuff slowly. They really don’t account for mediocrity and natural selection there..

  5. My music has been CC licensed since I started documenting it, in 2002. But at that time it was VERY new here since CC started in 2001! What’s disturbing is that although CC as a flexible tool for artists is still misunderstood in this country – with some believing that you can’t sell things that are CC-licensed. There is a certain amount of education to be done, as it is one of the most liberating tools we have.

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