Creative Commons “share alike” license asking for trouble?

The comments on my license on my own music post turned into a lively conversation about Creative Commons licensing.

Mike Linksvayer commented that the Share-Alike license, which requires a downloader or remixer to themself allow redistribution and remixing, allows inclusion of a SA work into a collective work which is not as a whole also under a Share-Alike license. For example, my releases on this blog could be incorporated into commercial CDs and forbid redistribution or remixing of the CD as a whole. This is important because the requirement that reusers are bound by the same commitment as the original creator is the main defensive feature of this license.

And gurdonark had this to say about the Share-Alike license:

While most CC licenses seem to me relatively straightforward and issue-free, the [Share-Alike] designation and its accompanying license gives me the most pause about whether it will require a court to interpret how its intricacies work.

I agree with gurdonark that there is a lot of complexity lurking under the surface of the SA license, but I feel confident that it strikes the best balance between promoting my creations and defending me from exploitation. So what if my track on a compilation CD is the only one under the same license? This helps me and hurts the others; I profit at their expense by using this license.

5 thoughts on “Creative Commons “share alike” license asking for trouble?

  1. The BY only license is perfect. But people, like myself, are afraid that someone sells their music for big money.

    When people do that, would that not have happened under another license or would they simply try to find some other work? That’s hard to prove.

    BY only might be the best marketing boost ever. I would love to experiment with it one day. Some of my songs are a couple of years old. Some of that music is already been paid for (project work), so I might be able to release it under a less restrictive license and see what happens. Maybe Hollywood likes to stick Blowing Snow under some film. Or some other interesting thing can happen. Would I then start thinking ‘oh my, what if it still had NC on it?’. The thing is: that might not have happened with NC on it. Again: hard to prove.

    We need to experiment and be brave. If some song gets used in a huge production that means super promotion. Good for business without doubt. And you can still tell the whole world that the best is still yet to come! Which is the truth.

    Some people work for free or for less money when they are asked to do some Class A work. They do that because it created huge exposure. Exposure, marketing is a price which needs to be paid. If lowering the licenses helps, that would make sense to me. Relicensing doesn’t gain a lot of money unless you are the Rolling Stones licensing Start Me Up for Microshaft. On the other hand the wallpaper-photo’s of Windows 98-xp where licensed for like 30 EURO each. I mean: yeah, right…

    What if Yesterday was released under BY only? Would it have broken Macca’s heart? Would it stop him from witting new songs? He’s written a lot of superb songs after Yesterday. Yesterday was only a start, a beginning.

    Times have changed. No one is making much money by selling CD’s anymore. It’s not so simple to become noticed and to make a buck with music. The days of Yesterday are over. But what you need is listeners, people who like you music; fans. If the BY only license helps best with it, it might be an idea to try it. Maybe I even will do that.

    Anyone can understand how the BY license works. Am you become that social open person who’s not afraid to experiment with the ideas behind the future of music.

    I personally also get the feeling that we will be able to make money by things which are indirectly related to the music, things like advertisements. That’s a great business model also for musicians. I have a sponsor running on my Dutch blog right now. And it’s paying ok (over 100 euro’s per month). And I can imagine this will grow and grow. At the moment I have between 150-200 unique visitors and it’s growing. I am a blogging musician, maintaining this blog and hopefully within a few years this blog offers me enough money to create anything I would like. Sure, I need a lot more visitors. But they will slowly be added, day by day. The only thing I need to do is continue. I would be happy to use BY only and see what happens. If Hollywood wants me for free music, mmm… that still sounds interesting to me. Huge exposure and I can always make my newest music more restrictive, or maybe not.

    Bottom line: we need to be brave and experiment.

    Thanks a lot Lucas for your full attention on this. Our man at Yahoo. We’ll keep an eye on you :)

  2. I agree with Marco that it’s good to “be brave and experiment”. I think that the BY license is a grand thing, although I’m not inclined to insist that everyone must, as am ideology, use BY or PD in every instance. I do think that the future is going to focus on this “sharing culture” idea, in which technology makes music creators of people who previously were technologically unable to create workable material.

    Some fear that Creative Commons music threatens the vocational musician, but I don’t really share that fear. Even given the old saw consumer expectation that “anything I get from the internet should be free”, the reality is that some music creators will be able to do things that catch the eye of consumers, and will achieve an economic return in one form or another. I personally think that music which supports advertising content indirectly through attracting users on a youtube, yahoo or even google model is the most likely revenue model, but time will tell.

    I’m not as interested, though, in whether Creative Commons music can be used as a new can opener to sell more CDs. I’m more interested in this notion of a truly sharing culture.

    I buy CDs from time to time. Although I believe that the traditional record industry are dinosaurs, I’m not so doctrinaire as to insist that my (non-Apple) mp3 player must consist solely of netlabel releases. Yet, I find that most of my listening these days is to Creative Commons netlabel artists who work from home studios. These folks “be brave” by releasing to the public for free, usually BY NC.

    In this vein, I will resist the temptation to say “you must use only BY” or “only BY NC” or “SA”, because, really, the whole point is flexibility. Although I expressed a technical reservation about the clarity of the SA, I agree with Lucas that it’s rather a luxury to choose the license that, as of today, makes the most sense to one’s own notion of one’s music.

    My suspicion is that one can “be brave” with BY licenses and still use BY music as a way to promote one’s professional aspirations. As one who has no professional aspirations, as my day job is in another field, it’s all rather beside the point to me (though I do apply an NC from time to time on a whim anyway). If someone releases a cool BY song and someone who “needs” content hears it, this is about as effective a viral marketing device for selling future content as I can imagine.

    Yet to me, this whole paradigm of “how will it impact my ability to make money”, which neither Lucas nor Marco focused upon, but which is the focus of so many folks discussing BY, is a bit beside the point. We know for sure, of course, that the changes in technology will change all the economic models for professional musicians.

    The thing that interests me, though, is not this fairly standard if dynamic evolution of a particular market in light of more abundant availability of product and marketing (rather like setting up 100 railroads to get cattle to Chicago).

    What interests me is the potential to create a culture of shared music, poetry, film, art, and literature which, through a consensual conspiracy among its creators, eschews most or all traditional copyright bars through use of Creative Commons licenses. The potential for creation of a truly new information culture is exciting, and a laboratory as worthy of our efforts as any physics experiment.

  3. I really like you response Robert. Thanks a lot.

    I want to be brave and switch to BY only. One added bonus: it’s no longer copyrighted, it’s almost completely free. No need to call it a license, anyone can understand attribution. I would use the CC BY-license probably because I like CC and it’s a great and useful license even for something as simple as BY :)

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