Dave Totten's personal voyage to the land of IT Fluency, and other Digital Governance issues.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Fluency Milestone #5 Lessig & Creative Commons

My short composition “The Digital Citizen” includes samples from The Wired CD, including a little bit from Le Tigré’s song “Fake French” and another sample from “Now Get Busy” by The Beastie Boys.

The sampling was made legal because The Beastie Boys and Le Tigré agreed to publish their songs under the Creative Commons copyright scheme. This system lets creators of content set a lower level of copyright protection than the traditional “All Rights Reserved” defined in statute.

Why would musicians want less copyright protection? In this case, they want to encourage DJs and other musicians to steal parts of their work through sampling. The musicians in Le Tigré feel that they stand to benefit by allowing parts of their work to be incorporated into new works. The additional exposure they would gain has some value to them. So, rather than force musicians to hire a lawyer and ask for expressed permission to borrow a few seconds of “Fake French”, they have deliberately chosen to give blanket permission for sampling under the Creative Commons (CC) format. The Beastie Boys have chosen a somewhat more restrictive license, requiring that any derivative work created from “Now Get Busy” be used for non-commercial works. I have mixed samples from these two licenses in my song, so the more restrictive will apply and I won’t be able to make money off “The Digital Citizen”. Too bad.

It’s useful to think of these as licenses, not copyrights. Nothing in CC can take the place of a copyright, which is established in federal statute. In the United States, the copyright for a creative work is established at the moment it is created and does not require the work to be published or registered with the government. The copyright gives the creator the exclusive right to control the work, for a limited time. An artist can sell or give away his work under whatever terms he decides until the copyright expires, after which the work enters the public domain. CC can be thought of as a way for an artist to set blanket conditions for how the work can be used under his existing copyright protection.

The CC website makes choosing permissions as easy as ordering from a menu. Options have expanded to include many different kinds of licensing, from “public domain,” which essentially gives up all claim on the content, to licenses that are nearly as restrictive as a traditional copyright. There are specific licenses for wiki content, for sampling, and for developing nations, among others.

The “developing nations” license lets artists reach new audiences by encouraging the distribution of content without permission. As the CC website states:

The Developing Nations license allows, for the first time, any copyright holder in the world to participate first-hand in reforming global information policy. The fact is that most of the world's population is simply priced out of developed nations' publishing output. To authors, that means an untapped readership. To economists, it means "deadweight loss." To human rights advocates and educators, it is a tragedy. The Developing Nations license is designed to address all three concerns.

This is something of a gamble for the artist, of course, but by allowing the content to be published without permission in developing countries, it could possibly remove the edge held by illegal content pirates.

“The Digital Citizen” is licensed for non-commercial use, under attribution (to Le Tigré, Beastie Boys and David Totten) with sampling permitted. It is legal to download, copy and distribute it without seeking further legal permission.

If you can get past the sad fact that it’s mostly a collection of annoying noises, of course.

-david totten.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons NonCommericial Sampling Plus 1.0 License.


Blogger Piotr Konieczny said...

So you have released this post under CC, but not the entire blog?

10:49 AM

Blogger David Totten said...

The post is not released under CC, and neither is the blog, at this point. That license refers to the musical composition "Digital Citizen" which will soon be available at the Digital Citizen website. When the song is up for download, I'll try to edit the post to make it more clear.

10:19 PM


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