Ottmar Liebert is our new Featured Commoner. Ottmar composes, performs and records music in a Nouveau Flamenco style. Seven of his albums have gone platinum and two other albums gold; he has also been nominated for a Grammy. He uses the Creative Commons Sampling Plus license to make large amounts of his music available to the public for remixing. Read more about Ottmar’s musical background and his experience with CC licensing here.Comments Off on New Featured Commoner – Ottmar Liebert
Photo © Greg Gorman / Santa Fe
Ottmar Liebert composes, performs and records music in a Nouveau Flamenco style, which mixes elements of flamenco with jazz, bossa nova, and other genres. Seven of his albums have gone platinum and two other albums gold; he has also been nominated for a Grammy.
At Ottmar’s and the Lunanerga site you can both buy CDs and merchandise and, via the Listening Lounge, enjoy music licensed under the Creative Commons Sampling Plus license. The Listening Lounge offers tracks as well as loops and parts. Musicians Jon Gagan, t-one, Canton and Steve Stephen also offer their music via the Listening Lounge.
Creative Commons (“CC”): When did you start recording and performing music? How did you first hear about Creative Commons?
Ottmar Liebert (“OL”): I have been playing guitar since I was eleven years old. I arrived in the USA in May of 1979 and starting out as a dishwasher. I have also worked as a bank teller and a bike messenger. I played in a rockband in Boston for several years. In 1986 I moved to Santa Fe and started playing classical guitar in restaurants. I took Flamenco lessons and recorded “Nouveau Flamenco” in 1989. That album was released in 1990 by Higher Octave Music and sold over 2 million copies. After recording three albums for Higher Octave I signed with Epic Records and stayed with them from 1991 through 2001. I first discovered Creative Commons a couple of years ago by following a link to Professor Lessig’s site.
CC: What attracted you to the idea of Creative Commons?
OL: When I was a teenager, copyright lasted 50 years; now it lasts for much longer. In a time where the wheel turns much faster, we should not extend copyrights. Nowadays corporations are allowed to copyright ideas, mere notions of technology that doesn’t even exist yet. Why would anybody want to invent something that some corporation has already claimed in theory. We are building fences around land we haven’t even approached yet….
I feel that artists create not only in order to experience the process of creation itself, but also for the ripples. I find that the act of creating is like throwing a pebble into a still lake to watch the ripples. Being able to share my work via a CC license enables me to experience more ripples. Sometimes the ripples can inspire more work in me.
CC: Why did you choose the Sampling Plus license for your music?
OL: Musicians sample one another one way or another. Whether actual samples are used or a cool sound, riff or feel is actually re-created. Might as well officially allow it and even encourage it (see also my answer to the last questions and the concept of ripples)
I am genuinely interested in hearing what other musicians might do with some of my work. In the past I have commissioned people to remix some of my work—this is going a step further.
As a musician I want to take part in the larger cultural landscape, want to see my ideas noted, accepted, reflected, used or otherwise messed with. I want to be swimming in the river of culture, to partake of that larger experience. The Sampling Plus license lets other people know that I am open to that engagement, that exchange.
I read a book by the Japanese Zen Master Uchiyama called “Opening the Hand of Thought.” Using a Sampling Plus license does that for me.
CC: At the Listening Lounge, you offer loops and parts of your tracks, in addition to the completed track. What was the reasoning behind this?
OL: I am not just allowing people to sample the music, I am enabling them to do it by offering isolated tracks. More ripples. And it is theoretically potential business because I can sell the same piece of music as a stereo mix as well as in the form of isolated tracks.
CC: What has been the reaction of fans and visitors to the Listening Lounge?
OL: I feel that introducing people to the Listening Lounge and downloading in general is a process that will take some time. That process is partly one of education. For example, fans have expressed that they prefer to buy the “original” rather than a download and I have to explain that CDs are not original at all. They are no less copies than a download would be. In fact downloading is much more direct than buying a CD in a store.
I think some fans are realizing the advantages of the Listening Lounge. I started a new download-only album of solo-guitar improvisations called “Tears in the Rain.” The pieces are uploaded as they are recorded, rather than waiting for a complete album or manufacturing a CD. A PDF for the album is also available for download with drawings and some writing. At first fans asked for a complete CD release, but soon they discovered how exciting it is to hear music as it is created, since I usually upload the “Tears in the Rain” pieces within a few hours of creating them.
One interesting reaction came from Mark Hamilton’s blog “Notes from a Teacher” who says of the Listening Lounge:
Comments Off on Ottmar Liebert
“This really is an amazing site, and obviously the product of someone who has thought long and hard about distributing music in a way that gives fans a range of choices and an enjoyable experience. In short, it treats those who visit as music lovers, not consumers.”
If you’re into innovative and free sounds, check out Opsound now.
The Opsound news feed is also well worth following. It’s where I discovered SoundTransit, a community collecting field recordings under a CC Attribution license, with a cool travel motif and mapping feature.Comments Off on Opsound Transit
[This is part of a weekly series written by Lawrence Lessig and
others about the history and future of Creative Commons. If you know others who might find these interesting,
please recommend they sign up at
Last week, I said this week’s email would describe the Science
Commons. Let me introduce John Wilbanks, executive director of the
Science Commons. Here’s his description:
Science Commons (SC) was launched in early 2005. SC is a part of
Creative Commons – think of us as a wholly owned subsidiary – drawing
on the amazing success of CC licenses, especially the CC community
and iCommons. But we’re also a little different. Whereas CC focuses
on the individual creators and their copyrights, SC by necessity has
a broader focus. That necessity is caused by, for example, the fact
that most scientists sign employee agreements that assign
intellectual property rights to a host institution. Another example
is that scientific journals regularly request that scientific authors
sign over their copyrights, and scientists eagerly do so in return
for citations in what are called “high impact” journals. There’s a
very real collective action problem here: no one individual or
institution has strong incentives to change the system.
But the system is causing problems in the scientific and academic
communities. Scientific articles are locked behind firewalls, long
after their publishers have realized economic returns. This means
that the hot new article about AIDS research can’t be redistributed
much less translated into other languages (where it might inspire a
local researcher to solve a local problem). The difficulties faced
in relation to the “open access” of publications are easy compared
to those presented when we consider access to tools and data.
Published research indicates that nearly half of all geneticists have
been unable to validate research from colleagues due to problems with
secrecy and legal friction.
So Science Commons works on these problems: inaccessible journal
articles, tools locked up behind complex contracts, socially
irresponsible patent licensing, and data obscured by technology or
end-user licensing agreements. We translate this into projects, with
work in three distinctly different project spaces: publishing
(covered by copyright), licensing (covered by patent and contract)
and data (in the US, covered only by contract). We work on agreements
between funders and grant recipients, between universities and
researchers and between funders and universities—all in the service
of opening up scientific knowledge, tools and data for reuse. We
also promote the use of CC licensing in scientific publishing, on the
belief that scientific papers need to be available to everyone in the
world, not simply available to those with enough resources to afford
The Publishing Project
Scholarly communication in the sciences generally involves three
components: data generated by experimental research, a peer-reviewed
article explaining and interpreting the data, and metadata that
describes or interprets the underlying data or the article.
Traditionally, journal publishers were predominantly responsible for
gathering, distributing and archiving this information.
The Internet and associated digital networks create a range of
opportunities and challenges for changing the nature of what
information gets stored and communicated, how and when it gets
communicated, and how it is marked with metadata to aid in its use
and reuse. Science Commons is devoted to using its legal and
technical expertise to help scientific researchers make the best use
possible of these new communication technologies. For example, some
science publishers experimenting with a new business model for
scholarly communication require authors of peer-reviewed articles to
grant a Creative Commons license in their articles. These publishers
include the Public Library of Science, BioMed Central, and Springer
Science Commons also has convened a working group to discuss other
means for better associating research articles with research data and
for standardizing metadata associated with both of these components.
The Licensing Project
In licensing, we work in a focused manner on the funding of disease
research. Such work involves a lot of basic science carried out by
many individuals at a diverse range of institutions, both public and
private, and each with different policies about intellectual property
rights, different licensing agreements, and, to some extent, even
different funders. When the research begins to yield the kinds of
leads that might attract drug company attention, it will be desirable
(both in remuneration, and also in encouragement to pharmaceutical
companies interest and participation) to offer drug companies an
efficient package of rights that covers the basic permissions they
need to turn research into viable drugs and treatment regimens. The
current practice will certainly not allow the benefits of such “one
Using Huntington’s Disease research as a case study, Science Commons
is exploring a “technology trust,” which will combine an intellectual
property rights conservancy, patent pool and other related rights-
bundling methods. We are assessing the types of problems of rights-
fragmentation, a range of possible legal solutions to this problem
(including compulsory terms in funder agreements), the institutional
design of the trust or conservancy, and the question of what
institution would be best suited to administer such a trust or
conservancy. While the project aims to produce a method to ameliorate
the problem for Huntington’s, we would hope to provide guidelines for
solving such problems more generally.
The Data Project
In the United States, there is no intellectual property right on data
(there is such a right in the European Union, albeit with mounting
evidence that it was not needed). But current expansions in
intellectual property law could generate an entirely new set of
obstacles to sharing data among scientists or with the public.
Extending intellectual property rights to databases are likely to
result in basic data being locked up, made more expensive, or more
easily subjected to restrictive licensing agreements.
Additionally, there is a wasteful data economy evolving in which raw
data is not made accessible; scientists are either leery of the risks
of losing control over their data or subject to institutional
requirements that mandate a closed approach. Implicit in data sets
are answers to questions the researcher perhaps did not specify –
answers that are a consequence of the throughput of the experiment.
This data could be reused many times over if properly annotated and
preserved. This, however, requires a cultural shift among scientists,
not a technical shift driven by lawyers.
The Science Commons Data project has two aspects. First, we assert
that data should not be covered by intellectual property law. As part
of this project we provide a resource for database providers
struggling with licensing. Second, we are looking to improve on the
data economy by aiding in the construction of an integrated web of
data, papers, tools, and policy with the explicit goal of
facilitating research into brain disease – the NeuroCommons.
To link to or comment on this message, go to:
Week 5 – CC in Review: Lawrence Lessig on Continuing the Movement (Spanish
Version – Thanks to Maria Cristinia Alvite for translation
Many people have written to tell us about the Pew Internet & American Life report on Teen Content Creators and Consumers, which found an astounding 57 percent of online teens in the U.S. create online content and 19 percent are remixers.
The report doesn’t mention Creative Commons, though the implications are apparently obvious to our correspondents and many in the media, for example this BBC article on the study, which lists Creative Commons as one of two related links (the other being the study itself): participatory culture is only just getting started and flexible copyright licenses are a necessary part of the equation.1 Comment »
Google now enables CC-customized searching so you can search for Creative Commons-licensed content on either Google or Yahoo!’s Advanced Search page. Creative Commons’ own “Find” page now gives you to option to use either Google or Yahoo! for your searching. With two major search engines now enabling the dissemination of CC-licensed works, this enables greater dissemination of CC-licensed works and establishes CC’s licensing infrastructure as an important component of the Internet.3 Comments »
Get ready to broaden your minds and ask the bigger questions of what kind of world of the Internet and all things digital _should_ look like. The next iLaw is scheduled for March 16 & 17, 2006, in Mexico City. Topics to be discussed include intellectual property protection, how changing technologies are affecting policy, law and markets, the globalization of the Net and the implications of entering new markets when you don’t fully understand the legal regimes and the cultural, societal and political impacts of new Internet technologies and how changes in norms are driving changes in markets. The faculty include Professor Yochai Benkler, Professor William Fischer and Creative Commons’ own CEO & Chairman Lawrence Lessig. The details about the seminar and the program are available in English and Spanish. Get ready to broaden your mind.Comments Off on iLaw, March 2006 in Mexico City
Back in October, CNET Executive Editor Tom Merrit wrote a piece about Creative Commons considering the question “Does Creative Commons free your content?” Creative Commons’ international partners wanted to share the article with their colleagues and fellow countrymen – but the drawback was that it was only available in English. Luckily, Tom was able to persuade the CNET legal department to license the text of the article under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license. Now the article is available in Japanese, Hebrew, Italian and Spanish…with possible more translations in the works. A great example of Creative Commons licenses enabling dialogue across geographic and linguistic boundaries.Comments Off on Words from CCed CNet Article Ring Around the World
[This is part of a weekly series written by Lawrence Lessig and
others about the history and future of Creative Commons. If you know others who might find these interesting,
please recommend they sign up at
From last week’s episode:
Thus we use our licenses to build the freedoms authors want upon a
reinforced layer of “fair use” freedoms. Creative Commons is thus
“fair use”-plus: a promise that any freedoms given are always in
addition to the freedoms guaranteed by the law.
That’s the end of the background. Next week I will describe some of
the fun stuff Creative Commons has built, and some more about where
The story continues:
About two months ago, a friend asked:
I don’t get what Creative Commons is, beyond a bunch of servers
serving up licenses to people around the world. Why would you need
The question was completely understandable. Most who see us just see
us through our licenses. Yet there’s a great deal more to what we’re
doing. And my aim over the next few weeks is to describe that great
This email is just a start (I promised to keep these short). Its aim
is to describe the initial core of CC.
When Creative Commons was launched in December, 2002, we had a
simple, narrow focus — to spread Creative Commons licenses. The
organization was housed in the basement of Stanford Law School. The
tiny staff worked so hard that some at Stanford thought they lived
The aim at the time was straightforward: to explain why Creative
Commons licenses mattered. We did that with lectures, with stories
for the press, and even with Flash.
Slowly, we found traction. MIT’s OpenCourseWare project used CC
licenses to free an extraordinary range of content for anyone to
build upon or share. Rice University’s Connexions project did the
same. And Tim O’Reilly gave us over 500 titles from O’Reilly Press to
release under free licenses, including some under a license (the
Founders’ Copyright) that voluntarily reduces the term of copyright
to just 14 (or 28) years.
Very soon into the project, we started getting emails from around the
world asking how others in other countries could participate too.
Technically, our licenses were designed to work anywhere in the
world. But this enthusiasm went far beyond the desire to adopt US-
So early on we launched the “iCommons Project.” Headquartered in
Berlin, the initial aim of the iCommons Project was to coordinate
with volunteers from around the world to develop versions of our
licenses that were tuned to the law of local jurisdictions. Japan was
the first, developing a license based in Japanese law that could also
be used anywhere in the world. These localized licenses would then
link to a translated “Commons Deed” (remember, the simple plain
English (and now, plain-Japanese, Spanish, French, etc…) explanation
of the license), and then to a universal set of metadata that would
make the freedoms attached to the content understandable by computers.
iCommons quickly exploded. Soon we had volunteers from over 70
countries around the world interested in porting our licenses to
their local law. And as countries completed the project, I began
trekking across the world to celebrate the launch of Creative Commons
internationally. With Slovenia’s launch this last weekend, there are
now 24 jurisdictions that have gone live. And a bunch more will
become live very soon.
This is the core of what CC has been — making free licenses work
wherever we can. But that’s just the beginning of the work we’ve
done. Next, we’ll describe the Science Commons. And after that,
another major new international project.
One final fundraising related bit of news: As you know, I’m writing
these letters as part of our annual fundraising campaign. This letter
might begin to help you see why such a campaign is needed. But I
wanted to tell you about a new feature to this campaign: We’re asking
our supporters to add a Creative Commons button to their site, to
help grow the Commoners Movement. Please support us by adding a
button to any page you might control. You can get the button here.
Thanks for any help you can offer.
To link to or comment on this message, go to:
Kembrew McLeod is currently an Assistant Professor, University of Iowa, Department of Communication Studies. In addition to being an academic, Kembrew is a self-professed prankster. In 1998 he trademarked the phrase “Freedom of Expression®” as a comment on how the intellectual property law is being used to fence off culture and restrict the way in which people can express their ideas. He is the author of two books: “Owning Culture” and, most recently, “Freedom of Expression®: Overzealous Copyright Bozos and Other Enemies of Creativity“.
The book “Freedom of Expression®” was released online under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/). Kembrew is currently making a documentary based on the second chapter of the book “Copyright Criminals: This is a Sampling Sport“. Excerpts of the documentary are currently online at the Internet Archive licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 license. This documentary also inspired music that has been uploaded and remixed on the Creative Commons ccMixter site.
Both the book and the documentary make for a fascinating look at the creative process for many artists for whom sampling, recontextualization and referencing and ‘borrowing’ from the works of others is their artform.
Creative Commons’ Mia Garlick caught up with Kembrew and asked him about his experience of using Creative Commons licenses and tools.
Creative Commons (“CC”): How did you come to decide to release your book “Freedom of Expression®” online under a Creative Commons license? How did your publisher respond to your decision?
Kembrew McLeod (“KM”): While working on “Freedom of Expression®”, I always knew I would vigorously try to convince Doubleday/Random House to release a PDF file version of my book under a Creative Commons license although I suspected that Doubleday/Random House’s response would be “no way.” After all, the parent company of Random House is Bertelsmann, the media giant that also owns one of the major labels that is suing downloaders, so I didn’t think they would exactly jump for joy at my proposal.
Then Larry Lessig released his book “Free Culture”, that was published by Penguin books (another media giant publisher) online under a Creative Commons license; it made the news, and eventually it filtered back to my editor, Gerry Howard, who is a truly extraordinary person, and a really cool rock ‘n’ roll dude (not to mention a legend in the editing world). Gerry deserves the credit for getting Random House and its lawyers to go along with the idea. However, I don’t think I ever would have gotten any traction if Larry hadn’t convinced already another major press of the merits of a Creative Commons license.
CC: Have you had any reaction or comments from members of the public about your online release of the book under a Creative Commons license?
KM: It has been a truly gratifying experience to have the PDF version freely available, especially because (with the exception of Japan, where it is being translated for publication), my book “Freedom of Expression®” has no overseas distribution. I have heard from someone at a UN office in Switzerland, who shares my research interests, as well as others from various European, Asian, and African countries. Not coincidentally, soon after the book was released I was invited to speak at a really interesting event to be held this October 14-15, 2005, in Budapest, Hungary, called: “RE:activism: Re-drawing the boundaries of activism in a new media environment.”
CC: You have been selling hardcopies of your book as well. Do you feel that the online release of your book under a Creative Commons license has had any impact on the hardcopy sales?
KM: When I placed the Creative Commons-licensed PDF version online a week after it had been released, Larry Lessig endorsed my book on his blog — providing links to both the free PDF version on my website, and to Amazon. After that, my Amazon ranking (of course, not the most scientific indicator of sales, but an indicator nonetheless) shot way, way up after he posted his recommendation. Honestly, I think I got more publicity from that event than anything else surrounding the release of the book. After all, my book did not receive even a millionth of the promotion muscle of, say, Harry Potter, so the Creative Commons-prompted publicity definitely helped. It also seemed to be a positive karmic act of good faith, given the nature of what I argue in the book.
CC: You are in the process of making a documentary about the second chapter of your book – “Copyright Criminals: This is a Sampling Sport“. You used the Creative Commons ccPublisher tool to upload the video for free hosting at Internet Archive. What was your experience of using the ccPublisher tool?
KM: It was really simple and easy! It took me less than one minute to do it, and I’ve recommended this tool to everyone who has asked about Creative Commons licenses. My co-producer, Ben Franzen, and I had already placed our 10-minute work-in-progress version of Copyright Criminals under a Creative Commons license. But when we remembered that there is free hosting on the Internet Archive for Creative Commons-licensed works, we quickly uploaded it there after we blew through our bandwidth in only 24 hours.
CC: You also had an interesting experience with our ccMixter site and a remix involving your “Copyright Criminals” documentary. Can you tell us about it?
KM: Straight after we made this early version of “Copyright Criminals” available, someone (Pat Chilla the Beat Gorilla) placed an a capella rap on the ccMixter site that starts out, “It’s the copyright criminals/hit you with a blast from the past… .”
Shortly after this track was uploaded, many different remixes appeared that reworked this a capella. To date, there are 9 different remixes. Next time we do another Creative Commons-licensed cut of our work-in-progress (the feature length version won’t be finished until sometime in 2006), we are intending to use Ashwan’s “Chilla Illa Tha Cilla Killa” during the credit sequence.
This is an example of one of those gratifying creative feedback loops that makes Creative Commons so attractive for so many different kinds of people. I am glad it happened.Comments Off on Kembrew McLeod