Freesound

Celebrating Freesound 2.0, retiring Sampling+ licenses

Mike Linksvayer, September 12th, 2011

Freesound is a collaborative database of nearly 120,000 sounds. We first posted about the project in 2005. Freesound specializes in sounds, not songs, and those sounds have been used thousands of times from ccMixter remixes to a major motion picture.

The project has just launched a complete rewrite of its site, with a new, modern look, and a new, modern codebase that will enable the project to grow and add features over the coming years. Congratulations to Bram and the entire Freesound community! Hop over and get involved.

Freesound 2.0 also brings a long-awaited licensing migration, which the rest of this post delves into. Later in 2005, we interviewed Freesound project leader Bram de Jong:

CC: What led you to mandate use of a CC license for all samples in Freesound?

BdJ: Simply because the creative commons licenses are clear licenses, well thought of, well documented and above all quite modular. We doubted a long time about which license to choose, and in the end decided to go with Sampling+. In retrospect we chose wrong, and we’re planning to ask our users to switch to Attribution/Attribution-NonCommercial, but that’s a bit further in the future.

In 2006 the project started a poll which would inform the eventual license migration:

A large fraction (37%) of the community also wanted a public domain option (and fortunately we launched the CC0 public domain dedication in the interim). The image below shows what the Freesound 2.0 license migration options look like for existing users:

We expect this migration to result in greatly increased use of Freesound-hosted sounds, and of Freesound itself, especially to the extent users choose to migrate to CC0 and CC Attribution — this will be the first time Freesound samples will be available under fully free terms, and thus usable by anyone for any purpose, including massively in massively collaborative projects such as Wikipedia, which insists on such terms.

Creative Commons is taking this opportunity to retire the Sampling+ license, as well as the NonCommercial-Sampling+ license (the latter was not used by Freesound, nor by any major project, and probably should have been retired years ago). For a big picture explanation of why we’re retiring these licenses, and why now, see the following text from an email explaining plans for retirement to the Creative Commons board of directors:

[In 2007] we retired the sampling and devnations licenses due to low usage and failing to permit a minimum of noncommercial verbatim distribution worldwide (retirement means we don’t recommend use for new works and add to http://creativecommons.org/retiredlicenses — the deeds and legalcode stay up forever for anyone already using them).

It is approaching time to retire the sampling+ and nc-sampling+ licenses due to low usage and lack of interoperability with the six main CC licenses. We’ve further come to understand the importance of interoperability and clarity. While niche licenses in theory could attract more creators do the commons by addressing specific needs, they detract from the commons by subdividing it into incompatible pools and making the commons harder to understand.

The only major site using sampling+ (there are none of significance using nc-sampling+) is Freesound, a sound sample repository. Freesound 2.0 will be launched, with CC0 as the recommended option, but also support for BY and BY-NC, and a push to ask contributors to re-license (or dedicate to the public domain) previous uploads. We intend to retire the sampling+ licenses in conjunction with the launch of Freesound 2.0, giving that important community the respect and attention it deserves while at the same time demonstrating our continued rigorous commitment to an interoperable commons.

If you’re interested in even more details concerning why Sampling+ was not right for Freesound, and right for Creative Commons to retire, continue reading…

After the initial suite of 11 CC licenses (cut back to 6 in version 2.0) was launched in late 2002, it wasn’t clear that CC shouldn’t create even more licenses to address particular niches. Those following the free and open source software world knew that “license proliferation” had a bad name, but the world outside software is very diverse, so CC explored, including an education-specific license (never developed, which was just the right thing, as CC’s standard licenses have turned out to work just great for learning materials), a license which only granted broad permissions in the developing world (retired, see link above), and perhaps most interestingly, a remix-only license, at one point briefly be called the Recombo license (a tribute to CC’s popularity in Brazil), in the end launched as the Sampling license.

The Sampling license was on one hand very restrictive — it did not permit any verbatim distribution — a CC license that did not permit simple sharing(!) — but on the other hand, permitted commercial use of licensed works, provided they were used transformatively. In theory, such a license could be very good for the commons. It might encourage conservative entities to license some works in a way that would not sanction their bugaboos such as P2P filesharing, but could ultimately be incorporated into free works through remixing.

Sampling was never widely used, perhaps because lack of allowing verbatim sharing just broke too many use cases — including CC’s. When WIRED did its magnificent issue on CC, featuring prominent artists using the new license to promote remix, not being able to share the verbatim originals would have made a site like ccMixter (launched with the issue) rather unwieldy. So CC created the Sampling+ license, the plus noting that it added permission to share verbatim copies.

However, this process resulted in one of the oddities that made it very hard to remember how Sampling+ worked: it only allowed non-commercial verbatim sharing, but at the same time, it allowed commercial use if transformative. This is one instance in which CC’s practice of developing a simple machine-readable description of its licenses alerted us that something was amiss. The flat CC REL statements permits Distribution and prohibits CommercialUse would not be adequate for describing Sampling+. We were forced to define a new permission, Sharing, which we defined as non-commercial distribution. This allowed us to say Sampling+ permits DerivativeWorks and leave out prohibits CommercialUse, which would be too broad. This exercise wasn’t enough to stop Sampling+, but it did highlight another (in addition to helping computers facilitate discovery and use of licensed works) use case for machine-readable license descriptions — informing the development of licenses (and other legal tools; such an exercise was helpful in defining the scope of the Public Domain Mark) themselves.

Some of the artists (or their management) involved in the WIRED CD did not want to permit any sort of commercial use, thus we created the NonCommercial-Sampling+ license. The WIRED CD and issue and launch of ccMixter were each huge successes and major milestones for CC. However, the Sampling licenses themselves proved to be a nearly instant “legacy” problem. In 2005 ccMixter discouraged their use in favor of CC Attribution and Attribution-NonCommercial and as the interview above shows, Freesound knew that was the right move almost immediately as well. Please read Victor Stone’s delightful ccMixter memoir for a history of that project, including licensing.

For completeness, it’s worth noting a couple other problems the Sampling licenses had, in addition to Sampling’s not allowing verbatim sharing (the reason it was retired in 2007) and Sampling+’s hard to remember commercial/non-commercial mix.

All of the Sampling licenses only allow adaptations that make “partial” and “highly transformative” uses of the original. This caused three sub-problems: (1) for some short works, samples on Freesound in particular, “highly transformative” and (especially) “partial” use potentially severely limits natural uses of the works; (2) these conditions are fairly open to interpretation — had any of the Sampling licenses been very popular, “what is transformative/partial” would be another consuming question, a la non-commercial; and (3) it is not clear just how much the Sampling licenses permitted beyond what one can (or at least ought be able to) do based on copyright exceptions and limitations such as fair use.

Finally, the Sampling and Sampling+ licenses also have a complete prohibition on advertising and promotional use (except for promoting the work and artist themselves), which resulted in four sub-problems: (1) prohibition of such a broad class of uses greatly limits the value of the commercial use permission, and considering “promotional”, even many otherwise non-commercial uses; (2) what constitutes advertising or promotion?; (3) limitation to non-promotional uses accentuates the question above about what is permitted above and beyond default exceptions and limitations; and (4) the Sampling and Sampling+ licenses are not compatible with any of the 6 main CC licenses — one can’t incorporate a work under Sampling or Sampling+ into a work distributed under one of the 6 main CC licenses, as none of them, even those with the NonCommercial term have a complete prohibition on advertising, let alone all promotional uses.

Obviously CC has become much more focused on interoperability since its beginning — we have released no new niche licenses since 2004, and as of today, have retired all of those. Version 4.0 of the main CC licenses will present another opportunity to take a hard look at interoperability, and fix any rough edges we might find, with your help. If you’re interested, please join the discussion virtually or at its kickoff later this month in Warsaw.

If you’ve read this far, now take a break and check out Freesound 2.0.

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CC Talks With: Mr. Mayo’s Class Integrates CC, Skypes with Lawrence Lessig

Jane Park, November 19th, 2009

mr mayo
Photo by Mr. Mayo CC BY-NC

A few weeks ago, I had the chance to talk to George Mayo, known as Mr. Mayo to his students, a middle school Language Arts teacher in Maryland. Mr. Mayo was brought to CC Learn’s attention by Lawrence Lessig, CC’s founder and current board member, who Skyped with Mr. Mayo’s class for thirty minutes, answering questions on copyright, YouTube’s take-down policy and downloading music. Mr. Mayo and his class have integrated CC licensed works into their daily activities, documenting it all at mrmayo.org. Instead of elaborating on the various innovative ways Mr. Mayo and his class uses CC, I’m going to let George speak for himself. The following is the interview I had with him via Skype. You can also listen to the audio here.

Read More…

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Spain’s Version 3.0 goes live

Michelle Thorne, November 17th, 2008

Creative Commons Spain and Catalonia has successfully completed its versioning of the ported Creative Commons licensing suite to Version 3.0. The six standard Creative Commons licenses are now legally and linguistically adapted to Spanish law and available in Castilian, Catalan, and Basque, with a Galician translation coming soon and now Galician.

CC Spain and Catalonia is lead by Ignasi Labastida i Juan and in affiliation with the renown Universitat de Barcelona, The Spanish community continues to rank among the most frequent and permissive license users, and the country hosts numerous CC-powered projects and proponents, including the collaborative Freesound database, netAudio.es and its associated netlabels, several departments of the Catalan government, and institutions like Universitat de Girona with dedicated open resources for research and learning.

“Version 3.0 of the licenses is more robust and clarifies some aspects related to moral rights and rights collective management,” explains Ignasi Labastida i Juan. “We now have many users, but there is still a lot of work to do to explain the meaning of using a CC license in specific fields.”

Creative Commons International, a project of Creative Commons, continues to work with legal experts and professionals around the world to ensure the licenses’ global interoperability and their jurisdictional legal certainty.

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Freesound.org Update: Name Change, Radio, CC Licensed PHD, and more

Cameron Parkins, September 29th, 2008

Freesound, a venerable repository of CC-licensed samples, has been up to a bevy of good work since we last checked in with them. This includes developing a beautiful successor to wav2png, changing their name to freesound.org, teaming up with Happy New Ears to develop an interactive sample machine aimed at children, and launching Freesound Radio, an “experimental web-based system around collaboration and social interaction in sample based music creations.”

What many people don’t realize about Freesound.org is that it is an initiative of the Music Technology Group at Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona. This means that outside of Freesound there are a collection of amazing students and professors working on understanding how music technology is changing at a rapid pace. One of these student, Jordi Janer, recentlly released his PHD singing-driven interfaces for sound synthesizers as a CC BY-NC-SA licensed PDF download.

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Freesound 2.0

Mike Linksvayer, March 13th, 2008

Freesound is a repository of CC-licensed audio samples … nearly 50,000 sounds.

In December Freesound received a Google Research Award which they’re using to create “Freesound 2.0″.

You can follow progress on their development blog and discuss on their forum.

I interviewed Freesound founder Bram de Jong a couple years ago.

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Freesound sample in “Children of Men”

Eric Steuer, January 17th, 2007

The powerful new film Children of Men is notable for many things: its bleak artistry, riveting story, and elegant direction, just to name a few. A very cool aspect of the movie that the critics may not have much appreciation for, but that we here at Creative Commons surely do, is its use of a CC-licensed audio sample, taken from the excellent CC community sound library Freesound.

From Freesound:

Friendly freesounder “6am” just brought it to my attention that the major motion picture Children of Men uses a Freesound sample, and properly credits the sample! You can see for yourself from this image that was sent to me. The sound in question is the “male loud scream” from thanvannispen. This is quite an amazing first! Go go freesound power!! And congratulations thanvannispen.

The sample is licensed to the public under CC Sampling Plus, making this a really great example of how CC’s non-exclusive noncommercial licenses can easily work in tandem with separate commercial licensing arrangements. Nice going to everyone involved!

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‘Organic’ for your brain

Mike Linksvayer, August 29th, 2006

Scott Leslie of EdTechPost writes:

I have been working away listening to streams of fully CC-licensed remixes and tracks from the awesome CCMixter site all day, and just wanted to tell someone. What brought me there was the announcement that my old favourite, Freesound, is now integrated into ccMixter via the Sample Pool API. Ahh, CreativeCommons content – think “Organic,” but for your brain ;-)

Thanks Scott! That’s what I’m talking about.

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Freesound via ccMixter (20k free sounds)

Mike Linksvayer, July 8th, 2006

ccMixter maestro Victor Stone summarizes the good news:

The freesound project is a web site for collecting tiny audio snippets and samples and sharing them under a Creative Commons license for use in larger audio works such as soundtracks, original material and oh yea, remixes. In just over the first year of operation they accumulated almost 20,000 samples of every shape, size and variety.

ccMixter is a site sponsored by Creative Commons that specializes in hosting remixes all under CC license and has the special ability to track the sources of the remixes. In almost two years of operation, ccMixter has had nearly 5,000 uploads from producers using samples from their own libraries, ccMixter itself and of course the freesound project.

It was only a matter time the two sites work together. Remixers from ccMixter that use samples from the freesound project can now track the sources of the remix back to freesound (and soon viceversa). You can see this in action with teru’s remix of “Ophelia’s Song” which includes electric guitar parts and an a cappella from ccMixter as well as a sample of a train passing and a nylon guitar pluck all of which are linked to from teru’s remix page.

On a technical note: The underlying technology is based on an open programmer’s interface first published by Creative Commons via ccMixter called Sample Pools. CC is continuing to recruit other sites with CC licensed music to expand the pool. Every installation of ccHost (the open source code project that ccMixter runs on) is already enabled for Sample Pools.

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CC Talks With: Freesound

Mike Linksvayer, October 1st, 2005

Freesound is a repository of CC-licensed samples … around 20,000 samples, recently integrated with ccMixter via the Sample Pool API.

We recently spoke to Bram de Jong, Freesound founder and researcher at the Music Technology Group of Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona.

Creative Commons (“CC”): How did Freesound come about?

Bram de Jong, Freesound Founder (“BdJ”): In 2005 MTG hired me to organize the 2005 ICMC (international computer music conference), and to create a website around that year’s ICMC theme “free sound”. Dr. Serra and me took the title quite literally and decided to create Freesound. We knew of other, similar, projects like archive.org, ccmixter, … but none of those projects specializes in sound files.

In MTG we have plenty of algorithms for browsing and organizing sound and music, and we wanted a platform to work on. Freesound is perfect: we have a LOT of files, and a an impressive amount of users giving us feedback (even though they might not always realize it). This is an amazing source of information for research.

Oh, and obviously we started Freesound because we could (we have the bandwidth!) and because it’s fun. ;-)

CC: What led you to mandate use of a CC license for all samples in Freesound?

BdJ: Simply because the creative commons licenses are clear licenses, well thought of, well documented and above all quite modular. We doubted a long time about which license to choose, and in the end decided to go with Sampling+. In retrospect we chose wrong, and we’re planning to ask our users to switch to Attribution/Attribution-NonCommercial, but that’s a bit further in the future.

I think Creative Commons is a superb initiative, but it’s still a very young phenomenon. A while back we went to talk to a television station for something we are doing for freesound, and to our surprise, no-one there had even heard of Creative Commons. The common man (pun intended) still has no idea there’s an alternative to “full” copyright. Hopefully Creative Commons will become an even larger movement in the future!

As I said a while ago in an interview with the a local Catalan website, I personally see the CC licenses as the perfect way of preventing crime. Everyone samples, if it’s illegal, or not. CC gives such tremendous power to the author to decide what you can and what you can’t. And as we all know, authors are in general much more open than large industry bodies! Power to the commons-people.

CC: Is the sample (not music incorporating samples) an artform unto itself? If so, point out a few samples at Freesound that a listener might appreciate on their own.

BdJ: Oh, yeah, entirely! Some of the people in Freesound are so dedicated to recording and creating sounds it’s amazing. Especially the people that do recording in nature or so called “field recordings” are very detailed about it all. I might be a bit -well a lot- obsessed with sounds, but sometimes I think a single sound can be a lot more evocative than music. Music is perfect for mood-setting, but sounds take you there. Especially sounds recorded “out there”.

I could give a hundred examples of single samples, but I’ll try to select a few which are really fun:

  • Let’s start with melack’s printer: you hear the sound and you can’t help but laugh and imagine the beat-up broken printer sitting there. Not printing, oooooh no, but making superb sounds.
  • A very new file: ‘wildsollution’s train sample with its geotag. If this didn’t make you visualize, … :)
  • In general our two users Acclivity (from England) and Dobroide (from the south of Spain) are two amazing examples of evocative recordists. Acclivity is a gentleman of respectable age who by his own words spends way too much time on Freesound. His tagline says it all: “Close your eyes, and you’re almost there!”. Acclivity has many superb samples, but some that left an impression on me would be Acclivity as the pied piper, Olga talking, and a classic. Dobroide is I think a field-working biologist and almost all his sounds are pretty amazing. Check out his complete animals pack and his voices pack.
  • Obviously a sounds library is complete without a perfect thunderstorm, captured in sparkling high fidelity. Our user Richard Humphries owns the local hero position when it comes to these kind of things: he is a pro sound recordist for television, and was so kind to upload 136 of his gems…

… et ce te ra

CC: 20,000 samples is a lot. Can you make any sweeping generalizations about the character of the samples or the community that has produced them or how each has changed as the site becomes more popular?

BdJ: Difficult. There are a lot of nature recordings. An amazing amount of “water” samples (splashing, dripping, streaming, …). More and more directly usable drumloops and synthesizer hits. But doing real generalization is very difficult. If you have a look at our tagcloud you’ll see it’s very eclectic… What we’ve been noticing lately is that our various telephone ringing sounds are very popular lately. I guess there’s a lot of people out there with nice oldschool ringtones :-)

CC: What does the future hold for Freesound?

BdJ: More! We want more samples, more users, more features, more everything. In the close future we will also do the jump to another license. We will be adding some technology from BMAT to Freesound as a technology demo. There’s some rather interesting technologies we want to be using like nice collaborative filtering and more content based recommendations to make it easier for people to explore Freesound even more. More about that later on Freesound!

There’s some more plans that involve Freesound, but some of them are so secret I’d have to make you listen to our mind-erasing sound (although I forgot where I put them).

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Over in Spain – Creating an Online Collaborative Database of Sounds

Mia Garlick, April 12th, 2005

In preparation for the International Computer Music Conference to be held in Barcelona in September 2005, the Music Technology Group and the Universitat Pompeu Fabra, have created the freesoundproject. The freesound project is a collaborative database of sounds – not songs or compositions – but sounds: audio snippets, samples, recordings, bleeps. All sounds uploaded to the site must be licensed under the Creative Commons Sampling Plus license. The site has already collected a range of diverse sounds – from instrumental pieces to balloon sounds – and offers sample packs, remixes and groovy waveform images of the sounds. The database is going to continue to exist, collect sounds and make them available after the conference – the conference is just the impetus for getting the project started. It’s a great example of building out the creative commons!

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