Commons News

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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Daily life in Iraq—new footage at Al Jazeera

Jane Park, January 14th, 2010

Last year, Al Jazeera launched their Creative Commons Repository with 12 videos shot in Gaza under CC’s most open license, Attribution only. Since then, Al Jazeera’s collection has grown, and their most recent footage includes videos documenting everyday life and culture in Iraq.

Check out this video of an Iraqi artist sculpting a Minaret and painting a tree. The sculptures seem to be encased afterward in gold or some other substance—I’m not entirely sure since I’m not fluent in Arabic. The good news is that the video and all others in this repository are licensed CC BY, so someone can help translate this into English or other languages, for use by rival broadcasters or in documentaries.

There are also more videos about the communication network in Iraq, and Samarra’s pharmaceutical factories and poultry farms.

You can also start remixing these videos to tell a compelling story, whether it’s a 30 sec or twenty minute film clip, maybe laid with some CC licensed soundtracks. Be creative. There’s a lot of CC licensed stuff out there. All Al Jazeera CC repository videos are available via CC BY, which means you can edit, adapt, translate, remix or otherwise use them as long as you credit Al Jazeera. Interested persons can add the Al Jazeera repository to their Miro feeds.

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Robin Sloan’s “Annabel Scheme”

Cameron Parkins, January 14th, 2010

Robin Sloan, a San Fransisco-based writer best known for his short stories and writing at culture blog Snarkmarket, recently completed work on his first novella, Annabel Scheme.

Sloan used Kickstarter, a social fundraising platform, to garner patrons for Annabel Scheme prior to publishing. By offering a number of incentive levels with varying amenities, Sloan was able to raise just shy of $14,000 for the project – over $10,000 more than he had originally asked. Had he not been able to raise the original goal of $3,500, no backers would be required to pay, making the process low risk for those looking to fund, as Kickstarter puts it, “creative ideas and ambitious endeavors.”

Towards the end of the fundraising round, Sloan decided Annabel Scheme was to be released under a CC Attribution-NonCommercial license – more than that, he chose to devote $1,000 of the excess budget to a remix fund. Sloan put out an open call for pitches on interesting ways to take the book and build something new from it. These pitches are now being voted on by the book’s backers, with an announcement on fund allocation forthcoming.

A unique project all around, it is no wonder Kickstarter awarded Annabel Scheme best project in their 2009 retrospective. You can download the novella for free at Sloan’s website.

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The White Cube Remix

Cameron Parkins, January 13th, 2010

In celebration of its 20th anniversary, Oslo’s RAM Galleri is currently showing The White Cube Remix, a “sonic art” exhibition that features a collaborative soundtrack created by 68 ccMixter community members.

The project began in November 2009 when Rolf Gerstlauer, exhibit curator at RAM, approached ccMixter users Sackjo22 and Gurdonark about creating a collaborative soundtrack for the exhibit. The pair released two tracks – The White Cube (accapella) and Winter Lights (ambient) – and asked the ccMixter community to build from there. From ArtistTechMedia:

Gurdonark and SackJo22 first composed and recorded ambient samples and spoken word source material, reflecting the central themes of this exhibition — light and winter in the north, which were then contributed to the ccMixter community for remix under a Creative Commons license. In less than one month, more than 94 original compositions, from ambient music to chill beats, were created by international music makers at ccMixter specifically for the White Cube exhibit.

SackJo22 and Gurdonark compiled a playlist of these 94 original compositions onto an mp3 player that [is] installed in the RAM Galleri, thus providing more than six hours of original music as a soundtrack for the White Cube exhibition.

All of the tracks created for the project are released under a CC Attribution license, allowing them to be freely shared and reused as long as the original creators are attributed.

RAM will be hosting a symposium tomorrow (January 14th) between 7-9PM CET to discuss the project generally, how the soundtrack was created, and its relation to participatory culture in a broader sense. For those not based in Oslo, you can watch the symposium online via a dedicated video feed (browser plug-in instillation required) – the required meeting ID number is 64858:

Contained In: The Continuous Production of the Ultimate White Cube?
Moderator: Carl Mattias Ekman (architect, scholar PHD AHO)

Susan Joseph (ccMixter – initiator of the white cube remix project)
Robert Nunnally (ccMixter – initiator of the white cube remix project)
Emily Richards (ccMixter and ArtisTech Media)
Gisle Hannemyr (
Frode Gether-Rønning (IT-director, AHO)
Rolf Gerstlauer (architect, curator of the exhibition, professor AHO)


FMA Guest Curator: Catching The Waves

Cameron Parkins, January 12th, 2010

Late last year we began reaching out to those working to expose and support CC-licensed music for help with our curator portal at the Free Music Archive. Our first guest curator was ccMixter admin Victor Stone, whose mix highlighted the talent of the ccMixter community. Now, we are happy to present the second mix in the series, featuring some incredible tracks selected by CC/netlabel music blog Catching The Waves:

I am deeply honoured to join in the fun at the FMA. My mix consists of some of the best tracks from some of the best albums that have been lassooed (SP) at CTW. It features lots of different genres, tempi and moods (rock, IDM, trip-hop, minimal, folk, ambient, etc.,) from as far afield as Germany, Japan, Colombia, the United States, France, Canada, Italy and the U.K. It was murderously difficult to whittle the mix down to a still unwieldy twenty tracks. It would be wonderful if people who were new to netlabels, and CC music in general, stumbled upon these songs and realised, as I did, that there’s a whole world of wonderful music just waiting to be discovered – and that it’s all free, legal and made by artists who want their music to be downloaded, copied and shared. Catching the waves can be fun…

You can listen to the whole mix at our FMA Curator Portal. Big thanks to Catching The Waves for the excellent selection!

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Be The Media: Independent Media Handbook Featuring CC Chapter

Cameron Parkins, January 11th, 2010

BeTheMedia2008webBe The Media is a book for anyone looking to create, distribute, and engage with digital media. Compiled by David Mathison, the book features articles on how individuals are taking control of their own media production and distribution (Part One: The Personal Media Renaissance) and how communities are developing around these producers to showcase their work (Part Two: The Community Media Renaissance).

The book features a chapter on Creative Commons and the Open Source movement, with essays from former CC General Counsel Mia Garlick and Free Software Foundation President Richard Stallman. This chapter, along with nine others, is released under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-Share Alike license.

You can download the chapter on CC for free (registration required) and purchase the entire book at Be The Media‘s website – a recommended read for those invested in new methods of online creation and distribution.

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A Special Thanks to

Melissa Reeder, January 8th, 2010

The Creative Commons gratefully acknowledges support on behalf of in the form of a $50,000 annual five-year grant. The grant is from the Beal Fund of the Triangle Community Foundation. This substantial investment demonstrates Lulu’s commitment to participatory culture and we are particularly grateful for it.

Lulu was founded in 2002 to empower creators to succeed, to provide them with the tools and services to reach audiences without having to abide arbitrary rules and restrictions of the past. Since that time, the company has helped more than 1 million creators around the world and touched off a revolution that continues to reshape the publishing industry. Lulu has long been a supporter of Creative Commons and this financial contribution helps ensure a vibrant future.

“Lulu works every day to solve the problems of authors, educators, researchers and other content creators,” said Bob Young, Lulu’s founder and CEO. “We’re proud to support Creative Commons and its innovative solutions to this particularly complex issue. Its goal is the same as ours; to encourage and enable creators to bring their works to the world.”

Bob was an initial investor in Creative Commons, and we’re grateful to have his continued support. If you too believe in the power of participatory culture, please join Bob and Lulu in investing in CC. Help us ensure a healthy, thriving global commons for future creators.

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To Shoot An Elephant Global Screening: Jan 18th, 2010

Cameron Parkins, January 6th, 2010

genesis_DARK_logoThe team behind To Shoot An Elephant, the award-winning CC Attribution-Share Alike CC Attribution-NonCommercial-Share Alike licensed documentary we learned about late last year, are organizing a global screening of the film for Jan 18th, 2010:

From the To shoot an elephant team we are calling on any individual, group or collective to organise a screening on the 18th of January 2010; it doesn’t matter where, at what time, or in what way it is done, the only condition being, that there is no charge or entry fee. Be it in a town square, a cinema, a theatre, cultural centre, school or college, the headquarters of a collective, social centre, squat centre…

You can obtain the film by purchasing the DVD, emailing the production team, or downloading the torrent. Learn more about the film, which focuses on turmoil in the Gaza Strip, as well as make a donation at the To Shoot An Elephant website.

UPDATE: The TSAE team has made the list of planned screenings available online.

UPDATE #2: The film To Shoot An Elephant is licensed under a CC Attribution-NonCommercial-Share Alike license – the film’s website is licensed under a CC Attribution-Share Alike license.

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Final campaign total: $533,898.68!

Melissa Reeder, January 6th, 2010

THANK YOU to everyone who donated to our annual fundraising campaign, who bought swag from our online store, and who helped spread the word to friends and colleagues asking for their support of CC over the past three months. Thanks to you, we were able to meet and exceed our goal, raising a total of $533,898.68 from individuals, family foundations, and companies around the world. We are honored to have so much support, despite a grim economic climate and amidst calls of support from so many worthy causes.

In the spirit of transparency, here’s a more precise breakdown of the funds we raised during this campaign. We had a greater number of donations from individual supporters – users, advocates, and friends of Creative Commons just like you – than in any previous year; 1,296 individuals from countries around the world contributed whatever amount they were able in support of the commons, giving a total of $234,798.68. While this number is larger than it ever has been before, it is still relatively tiny compared to the scope and breadth of Creative Commons and the number of users and CC licenses (over a quarter of a billion) that currently exist in the world. We’re hoping to see this gap narrow as Creative Commons becomes more self-sustaining, with our users and supporters giving enough back to the organization to support our core operations.

This year’s corporate support came from the following companies and totaled $237,500:
Consumer Electronics Association
Current Media
Digital Garage
Microsoft Corporation

We also extend a heartfelt thanks to the following family foundations for their contributions totaling $61,600:
Doug and Betsey Schwab Family Foundation
Elbaz Family Foundation
Harnisch Foundation
Vadasz Family Foundation
Markle Foundation
Lewis Foundation
Tom and Susan Rabon Charitable Foundation

We asked our supporters to fill out a questionnaire and tell us why they chose to support CC this year. Here is what a few of you had to say:

“I strongly believe in new ways of licensing creativity.”
“I believe the commons is important for culture and society.”
“CC is needed to change the creative world from being self protective to being open and sharing.”
“Because I fervently believe in personal freedom and CC is about Freedom.”

If you donated this year, but missed the questionnaire, I encourage you to fill it out so that we can continue to improve our fundraising and awareness efforts.

We always welcome your support. We expect 2010 to be a year of many exciting projects and milestones – you can help ensure that by donating, buying swag, licensing your creative works and using CC-licensed material.

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Honorary Doctorate Awarded to CC Founder Lawrence Lessig

Michelle Thorne, January 6th, 2010

The University of Amsterdam will present CC founder Lawrence Lessig with an honorary doctorate for his scholarship in cyberlaw and his advocacy to design a standard for open content licenses, Creative Commons. Prof. Bernt Hugenholtz of the Institute for Information Law (IvIR) will confer the degree on Prof. Lessig this Friday, Jan. 8.

The following day, Prof. Lessig joins several speakers at an academic symposium on open access publishing, organized by IvIR and Creative Commons Netherlands. If you cannot make the ceremony but would like to hear Prof. Lessig speak about copyright, you may find this recent talk of interest.

On behalf of the creators who’ve benefited from your remarkable work, thank you and congratulations, Prof. Lessig!

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