Mark Hosler: Some Thoughts for Congress About Creativity and Copyright

Cameron Parkins, November 19th, 2008

Mark Hosler, co-founder of experimental music and sound collage act Negativland, recently took a trip to Washington D.C., where he penned this letter to members of congress on creativity and copyright. From metroactive:

Ours is a world in which copyright has fallen woefully behind the curve of what the public actually wants to do with all that digital “stuff” out there. Millions worldwide are creating art, music and video that incorporate elements of existing work—cutting and pasting bits and pieces of music, video, text, and pictures made by others to create new works. Millions of web pages now use various Creative Commons licenses to provide a nuanced alternative to traditionally black and white interpretations of copyright laws (one such license Negativland helped to write). The prevalence of these alternative copyright strategies is a testament to how many of your constituents are not at all happy with copyright as it stands now.

Negativland have been working through these sort of issues for close to three decades and even helped us in the drafting of our (now retired) CC Sampling license. Hosler’s piece is a great read and makes a compelling argument that recent changes in the ways that art and culture are created and distributed make a fresh approach to copyright a necessity. While this may not be anything new Mike Doyle, we hope that it inspires conversation among other policy makers.

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Democracy Now! – now under a Creative Commons license

Eric Steuer, November 19th, 2008

We just received some tremendously exciting news. Democracy Now! – the daily news program broadcast by hundreds of radio and television stations around the world (it’s also the source of a very popular podcast) – is now being offered under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND license. This includes not only new episodes, but also those in the show’s archive, dating back to the program’s beginnings in 1996. The show, hosted by journalists Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez, and originally created by Pacifica Radio (which has continued to provide critical support for the program since it became an independent production), is funded by listeners, viewers, and foundations who believe in independent media – an approach to doing things that we here at CC wholeheartedly respect (visit our fundraising drive for more on this). Democracy Now! was founded to report on issues and stories that the producers believe are underreported by mainstream news outlets. The program’s new usage terms are made clear via a Creative Commons license notice at the bottom of each episode’s page (see today’s conversation with Cornel West for an example).

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The Commons in 140 Characters or Less

Fred Benenson, November 18th, 2008

So we’re a little late to the game on this one but we’ve just set up our microblogging accounts. Follow and send updates to creativecommons on Twitter or creativecommons on identi.ca and tell your friends!

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Tonight in Los Angeles: CC at Art Knows No Borders

Eric Steuer, November 18th, 2008

If you’re in Los Angeles tonight, visit Cameron Parkins, who will be representing Creative Commons with a booth at Art Knows No Borders (see this Flavorpill write-up for details). The fundraising event for Doctors Without Borders will include art, music, videos, and more. Cameron will be on hand to answer questions about Creative Commons and make the case for why you should also contribute to CC’s current Help Build the Commons support drive.

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Ozmo launches with CC+ protocol support

Eric Steuer, November 18th, 2008

Copyright Clearance Center has just launched Ozmo, a new web-based service focused on helping photographers, bloggers, and other content creators license their work for commercial use. Ozmo supports Creative Commons’ CC+ protocol (see the press release about CC+ for more information), meaning that it enables creators to license their work to the public under one set of terms via a Creative Commons license, and offer the ability to obtain a private license via Ozmo’s licensing system — to purchase rights not offered by the CC license a work is under (e.g., commercial use if the work is under a CC NonCommercial license, the right to make an adaptation and not share under the same license if the work is under a CC ShareAlike license, or the right to use without attribution), or simply to obtain a private agreement with the copyright holder for situations that require such.

To use Ozmo, a creator sets up an account, selects license terms, and sets a price for the use of their work. Ozmo then works as a broker to companies, publishers, and bloggers who are looking to use work commercially. Ozmo manages the licensing process and pays creators when a license to their content is purchased. You can find more details about how Ozmo works on the site’s About page.

Artist, animator, and filmmaker Ryan Junell (who is the designer behind the Creative Commons logo, as well as several of CC’s explanatory videos – see “Get Creative,” “Wanna Work Together?” and “Reticulum Rex”) worked with musician J Lesser to create a short video that explains how Ozmo works. It’s licensed under CC BY-NC-ND.

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Magnatune announces interesting additions to “post-scarcity” business model

Eric Steuer, November 18th, 2008

Magnatune, the terrific sharing-friendly record label that we’ve talked about many times before, has announced a transition from a per-album purchase model to a “DRM-free, all-you-can-eat, pay-what-you-want” model. Label founder John Buckman spelled out the details in a blog post today.

Memberships to Magnatune are now:

1) no commitment: one month at a time, whereas previously the minimum was 3 months

2) pay what you want: you fill in the amount you want to pay (no drop down box), though there is a $5/month stream membership minimum, and $10/month download membership minimum.

3) paypal recurring payments: use paypal recurring payments instead of a credit card, so you are completely in command of your membership, and can cancel it from Paypal if you like.

4) non-recurring and recurring both available: you choose whether you want your membership to auto-renew, or if you want to renew it by hand yourself

5) DRM free, Creative Commons licensed, and perfect audio quality: so you are free to enjoy our music as you wish

6) shareable music with your friends: you can share music you’ve obtained from your membership with your friends, though we ask you to be mindful of our business model and recommend you share no more than one album per friend per month

7) Everything: complete access to all our music. Downloads, 4h podcasts, streaming, iTunes & Amarok & Rhythmbox & Songbird support, and more.

8) Musicians get paid: with everything you do, 50% of your membership fee goes to the musicians you listen to. Magnatune remains fair to the musician.

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NY Times Magazine on Lewis Hyde

Eric Steuer, November 18th, 2008

This past weekend, The New York Times Magazine published an excellent feature on author and scholar Lewis Hyde, best known for his book The Gift, a landmark assessment of the gift economy and the value of doing creative work in a commodity-driven culture. I read The Gift a few years ago, and pieces from it often pop into my head when I talk to artists who use Creative Commons licenses in their approach to distributing their work. The Times article is a great primer on Hyde and The Gift is highly recommended for anyone interested in beautifully-written and well-argued philosophy about the benefits of sharing.

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Spot.us: CC-Licensed Community Funded Reporting

Cameron Parkins, November 18th, 2008

Spot.us is a recentlly launched nonprofit project from the Center for Media Change that aims to pioneer “community funded reporting.” Stories are pitched online with an amount of money needed for publication – users and site visitors can donate to any pitch they deem worthy, with the resulting article released under a CC BY license. From Poytner Online:

Users create story ideas that they think should be investigated and submit them to the site. From these ideas, journalists choose to write story pitches and open the idea up to the public to make donations. Once the project reaches its funding goal, those who have donated pay up and the journalist produces the story. If the project doesn’t receive enough funding, no one is charged. After the story is complete, Spot.Us publishes it and offers it to news organizations for free (the site’s content is licensed under Creative Commons). There is an option for news organizations to buy exclusive rights to the story, with the funding money going back to the journalist.

Spot.us has been getting a ton of great press including a nice write-up in the New York Times. Check out the site – no articles have been published yet but there are plenty of great pitches waiting to be funded. Similarly, don’t hesitate to start your own.

Addendum: Spot.us and Wikinews are both presenting tomorrow at a special CC Salon San Francisco on citizen journalism. It’s cool that both sites use the permissive CC BY license — they could each reuse the other’s stories, so long as they give credit — and you could too.

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A letter (and very special offer) from Lawrence Lessig

Melissa Reeder, November 17th, 2008

Last week, CC founder Lawrence Lessig sent the following letter (and offer) to our email lists. However, I thought it was important that everyone who is interested enough in CC to read our blog, should have the opportunity to read this as well. If you’d like to sign-up for our ccNewsletter list, please do so here.

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Dear Creative Commoner:

It has been an exciting week in America. Many of us had been focused on this presidential election. Few have had the time to think about the other projects we have that are working hard to do good.

I’m writing today to ask you to think again about one of those projects that will always be important to me — Creative Commons. We’re in the middle of our annual drive. The success of this drive is essential to our ability to run. The vast majority of CC’s supporters, including of course its Board, and current CEO, are volunteers. But the organization depends upon a small number of wildly underpaid staffers, as well as modest infrastructure to keep the system alive.

This is a tough year to ask for support, I know. All of us are facing difficult decisions about what we can really afford to do. But as I looked out at the packed audiences in Hong Kong celebrating the launch of the 50th Creative Commons jurisdiction, I saw again just how critical it is to keep this movement growing. We have made important progress over the year, including most importantly for me, winning the confidence of the Free Software Foundation so that they will permit FSF licensed wikis (including Wikipedia) to relicense to a CC license. But there is an enormous amount of work left to be done.

Please help us in this. Whatever you can give is important. And if you’d like something tangible in return for your gift, I’m happy to send you a signed copy of my latest (and last in this field) book, REMIX, inscribed however you like. (I’m only going to sign a limited number for this purpose, and we’re going to charge an insanely high price, but if you’re interested, visit here. And if you’re ordering from outside the United States, you’ll get the Bloomsbury Academic version of the book, with the CC license explicit inside.)

I’ve not pestered you much this year. It has been important to me to see this organization thrive when I’ve not been at the center of its work. But Creative Commons remains the work I’m most proud of. And like any parent, it still keeps me awake with worry at night. Please help us make this year another success. Do what you can. Get 6 friends to do the same. We’ve been depending on small donations long before America could spell “Obama.” And we depend upon those donations still.

Please support Creative Commons today.

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Commoner Letter #3: Jonathan Coulton

Melissa Reeder, November 17th, 2008


Jonathan Coulton; photo by Del Far under CC BY 2.0

To our community – for our next commoner letter we are featuring an artist who has really proven that the CC model works for musicians. Jonathan Coulton has made a career out of sharing his music with his fans, not just aurally, but digitally and meaningfully through the prolific use of our licenses. We’ve also worked with Jonathan this year to offer an exciting new CC item — a custom USB jump drive stocked with his music and source tracks. Read on for his heartfelt commoner letter and for more information about our new jump drives. If you would like to receive these email letters, please sign-up here.

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Dear Creative Commoner:

I first learned about Creative Commons when I heard Lawrence Lessig speak at a conference in 2004. I had been invited there to sing a silly song about the future, revenge, and robot armies to an audience of futurists and super scientists. It was a little intimidating – I was not even Internet Famous then. I was still working at my day job, trying to figure out how a career software guy in his mid 30s could ever find a way to make a living writing songs. Lessig gave his standard presentation (to this day, still the most delicious Powerpoint kung fu I have ever seen) explaining the history of copyright and the goals of Creative Commons. As we all filed out for lunch, I remember feeling like my head was on fire, it was just the most exciting idea I had ever heard.

In those days one of the things that was keeping me from doing music full time was my lack of a coherent plan: I make music, something happens, I make money, that was about as far as I could think it through. Creative Commons filled in a lot of the gaps for me. I knew about the internet of course, I was aware of the rise of remix culture, file sharing, and fan-created content. But there was something so compelling about the Creative Commons license, the idea that you could attach it to a piece of art you had made and declare your intentions – please, share my music, put it in a remix, make it into a music video. I was thrilled and emboldened by the idea that I could give my songs legs, so that they could walk around the world and find their way into places I would never dream of sending them. I immediately started licensing my songs with CC, and a year later I quit my job to create music full time.

It’s hard to overstate the degree to which CC has contributed to my career as a musician. In 2005 I started Thing a Week, a project in which I recorded a new song every week and released it for free on my website and in a podcast feed, licensing everything with Creative Commons. Over the course of that year, my growing audience started to feed back to me things they had created based on my music: videos, artwork, remixes, card games, coloring books. I long ago lost track of this torrent of fan-made stuff, and of course I’ll never know how many people simply shared my music with friends, but there’s no question in my mind that Creative Commons is a big part of why I’m now able to make a living this way. Indeed, it’s where much of my audience comes from – there are some fan-made music videos on YouTube that have been viewed millions of times. That’s an enormous amount of exposure to new potential fans, and it costs me exactly zero dollars.

When you’re an artist, it’s a wonderful thing to hear from a fan who likes what you do. But it’s even more thrilling to see that someone was moved enough to make something brand new based on it – that your creative work has inspired someone to do more creative work, that your little song had a child and that child was a YouTube video that a million people watched. A Creative Commons license is like a joy multiplier. The art you create adds to the world whenever someone appreciates it, but you also get karma credit for every new piece of art it inspires. And around and around. This is my favorite thing about Creative Commons: the act of creation becomes not the end, but the beginning of a creative process that links complete strangers together in collaboration. To me it’s a deeply satisfying and beautiful vision of what art and culture can be.

This is why I’ve chosen to release a greatest hits album of my Thing-A-Week songs to help support Creative Commons’ 2008 campaign. We’ve teamed up to combine not only the unreleased “JoCo Looks Back” album, but all of the unmixed audio tracks for all of the 20 songs on a custom CC green 1gb jump drive. The drives, whose entire contents are licensed under CC’s BY-NC-SA license, will be available exclusively through Creative Commons’ support site until December 31st, and you can get one today when you donate $50 and above.

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