sampling

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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Copyright Criminals: PBS Documentary on Sampling

Cameron Parkins, January 15th, 2010

Copyright Criminals is a new documentary on the rise of sampling, specifically in hip-hop music, and the cultural and legal effects it has caused. From the Copyright Criminals website:

Copyright Criminals examines the creative and commercial value of musical sampling, including the related debates over artistic expression, copyright law, and (of course) money.

This documentary traces the rise of hip-hop from the urban streets of New York to its current status as a multibillion-dollar industry. For more than thirty years, innovative hip-hop performers and producers have been re-using portions of previously recorded music in new, otherwise original compositions. When lawyers and record companies got involved, what was once referred to as a “borrowed melody” became a “copyright infringement.”The film showcases many of hip-hop music’s founding figures like Public Enemy, De La Soul, and Digital Underground—while also featuring emerging hip-hop artists from record labels Definitive Jux, Rhymesayers, Ninja Tune, and more.

The film will be broadcast publicly on PBS this Tuesday night, January 19th so be sure to check your local listings for time. You can get a taste of what is in store by watching the film’s trailer and starting January 26th you will be able purchase the film on DVD.

In conjunction with the film’s development a contest was held at ccMixter challenging community members to sample select voice-overs from the film to create an original track. Winner Dermes’ track Sounds that Sound good is featured on the Copyright Criminals DVD as well as a compilation CD featuring the other 12 top entries. All of the tracks are available for free at ccMixter under a CC Attribution-NonCommercial license.

Lastly, for those in New York City, a party is being held this Tuesday (1/19) at The Brooklyn Bowl to celebrate the film’s premiere and DVD release. The night will feature appearances by EL-P, Eclectic Method, Mr. Len and DJ Spooky – doors open at 8PM to be followed by the PBS Broadcast Premiere at 10PM.

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Yoko Ono’s Plastic Ono Band Goes CC!

Fred Benenson, October 14th, 2009

YOPOB

Photo via yopob.com, All Rights Reserved

Yoko Ono wants you to remix her track “The Sun Is Down!” whose stems are released under a CC Attribution-NonCommercial license. You can download the sample pack which includes the track’s vocal effects, loops of bass, drums, sound effects, and Tenorion files.

But Yoko’s also running a contest to find the 10 best remixes. Here are the details:

Create your own remix of “The Sun Is Down!” by Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band, using as many or few of the samples from the pack and any original audio you wish to add.

When you have finished your mix, make an MP3 copy that’s as high quality as possible, but still under 10MB in size.

Email the MP3 of your mix, along with its name and your name, address, email and phone number to remix@YOPOB.com before 12 December 2009.

The Top Ten mixes will be decided by Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band.

The winners will receive special signed Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band prizes and will be featured on this site over the Xmas and New Year period.

Head over to Yoko Ono’s Plastic Ono Band for the full contest details and to download the sample pack.

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Kraftwerk Sampling Case Overturned

Cameron Parkins, November 21st, 2008


Kraftwerk by greenplastic875 | CC BY

German electronic-music pioneers Kraftwerk were told yesterday by a judge in Germany that a two-second sample used by a producer in Germany did not infringe on their copyright. From the BBC (emphasis added):

The ruling overturns an earlier decision against Moses Pelham’s use of a short sample from Metal on Metal.

Judges in Berlin said the two second extract did not infringe copyright, as his song was substantially different.

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Retiring standalone DevNations and one Sampling license

Lawrence Lessig, June 4th, 2007

Today we are retiring two of the Creative Commons licenses — the stand alone Developing Nations license, as well as one of the three Sampling licenses we offer. The reasons for these retirements are both practical and principled.

The practical reason is simple lack of interest: From the start, Creative Commons has promised to keep our family of licenses as simple as possible. Actual demand has been one of the key indicators of how simple things can be. We estimate just 0.01% of our existing licenses are Developing Nations licenses, and 0.01% are the version of the Sampling license that we are retiring. Those numbers say that these licenses are not in demand.

The principled reasons are different with each license. The Developing Nations license is in conflict with the growing “Open Access Publishing” movement. While the license frees creative work in the developing nations, it does not free work in any way elsewhere. This means these licenses do not meet the minimum standards of the Open Access Movement. Because this movement is so important to the spread of science and knowledge, we no longer believe it correct to promote a stand alone version of this license. Later this month, we will begin a discussion about adding the terms of the Developing Nations license to 5 of the other CC licenses, and giving users the option to include those terms in their license. (So, for example, you could select a BY-NC license for the developed world, but offer a BY license for creators within Developing Nations.) Because such an option would be attached to a standard CC license, it would not conflict with the principle we are announcing here. Based upon the feedback we get to that idea, we will decide whether to implement it.

The Sampling License presents a similar concern. Until today, we have offered three versions of the Sampling license. Two of those versions permit noncommercial sharing of the licensed work (SamplingPlus, and Noncommercial SamplingPlus). One (the Sampling License) only permits the remix of the licensed work, not the freedom to share it. There is a strong movement to convince Creative Commons that our core licenses at least permit the freedom to share a work noncommercially.

Creative Commons supports that movement. We will not adopt as a Creative Commons license any license that does not assure at least this minimal freedom — at least not without substantial public discussion. We are grateful for the feedback, and for the understanding of those who helped us craft the sampling licenses, both of which got us here.

This change does not affect any existing licensed work. The links to these licenses, and every Creative Commons license, will always remain valid. The only change we’re making today is that we will no longer offer these licenses on our licensing page.

To read more about these retirements, please visit our retired licenses page.

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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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