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A Creative Commons Primer (in Links)

What is Creative Commons? by definition is a non-profit organization, but the name is more widely associated with the concept of Creative Commons as a way to extend copyright to promote legal sharing and modification of original works.” (via When I Have Time)

Why does it exist? “It used to be that copyright was something that the average person never used to have think about..because copyright only kicked in when you made a copy, and making a copy involves having some kind of big industrial piece of machinery…you know, you need a printing press to make a copy.  The rules were a little difficult to understand, but it didn’t matter because if you were going to spend a million dollars on a print shop, you could afford to spend a thousand dollars for a lawyer to tell you how to do it right. But now we can make copies a million times a day without even thinking. We copy like we breathe on the internet and every one of those copies is governed by copyright law and the digital response to the copyright law hasn’t been to make it simpler for us to understand, it’s been to make it harder and to make the penalties for getting it wrong even worse.  This has produced a really bad outcome, where 98% of the works in copyright don’t have any visible owner, no one knows who the license comes from, but the majority of internet users are essentially criminals because of how they use the internet.  Musicians and other kinds of artists are not getting paid and their fans are starting to feel like [musicians] greedy, terrible people – for having sued people who love their work and [therefore] don’t deserve to get paid, I mean it’s a mess for everybody!” (via When I Have Time)

Why is it good for bloggers? “Creative Commons can actually provide bloggers benefits that go well beyond the buttons and badges. In the uncertain copyright climate of the Web, having a firm lawyer-written license, regardless of what it says, can have huge benefits over the ambiguity that comes with not having one.” (via The Blog Herald)

Why do photographers hate Creative Commons? “Because it’s so confusing (or, to be more generous, ‘open to interpretation’), Creative Commons licensing spawns false confidence and innocent mistakes — giving sue-happy lawyers much to salivate over.”  (via Black Star Rising)  One response to Baradell’s post is here. (via Plagarism Today)

Why are composers wary? “Among the ‘copyright alternatives,’ Creative Commons have styled their licenses as being cool and easy to use. 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.  While the process appears simple, the meaning of these symbols can be misleading to a creator. Even if he or she takes the time to access what Creative Commons calls the ‘human readable’ terms and conditions of the license, will that creator fully understand its terms?” (via ASCAP)

Or maybe Creative Commons doesn’t fail? “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.” (via Lessig Blog)


About Jean Cook

Jean Cook is a musician, producer and Director of Programs for Future of Music Coalition, a national nonprofit that works to improve the lives of musicians through research, education and advocacy on policy issues that directly impact the ability of musicians to make a living and reach audiences. She is a founder and director of Anti-Social Music, a New York-based new music collective, and currently records and tours with Ida/Elizabeth Mitchell, Jon Langford, and Beauty Pill. For FMC, she currently project directs initiatives to fix jazz and classical music metadata, analyze what is actually played on jazz radio (and how to improve data collection), and understand how copyright impacts indigenous artists in places like Ethiopia, Tajikistan and Australia.

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