A recent post on music blogs and MP3 distribution at UK webzine Drowned In Sound raised some interesting questions about the legality of sharing online and caught our attention as a result. The posting focused on the case of blog Berkeley Place Indie (now Berkeley Place) that, like many music blogs, posted free MP3s of artists and songs that they liked. Beyond the legal questions involved in this practice, BPI’s owner claims that it was done under the assumption that they had both artist and record label blessing to do so.
When BPI found that a number of their posts had been either removed or made private by their hosts, a messy and complex ownership battle emerged. DiS summed up the details nicely, and provided some unique insight as well:
Rumblings suggest that this blogger is not alone, and that a whole host of posts are being taken down.
It’s all quite crazy and confusing, like most copyright laws in this highly globalised, anything-goes-until-a-precedent-is-set mad world in which we live. Unless there are sensible solutions, such as bandwidth taxes for data transfer or for owning an internet connection and/or a computer, this confusion will continue, embracing technology that can do things will be a minefield and technological creativity will be stifled or more likely forced further underground. It’s such a muddle, even people doing legitimate things will be thrown in with every album leaker.”
The CC answer to this problem is relatively simple – even our most restrictive license (CC BY-NC-ND) allows for the sharing of content. Record labels and artists can indicate, in advance, which songs they wish blogs to distribute – not just in a passing manner, but with a legally sound license that works to protect all parties involved. Music blogs, in turn, gain the insurance that these sort of takedowns won’t take place – legally speaking, our licenses are irrevocable, making a commitment to sharing legally and technically binding.
The issue is of course isn’t as simple as it sounds. From a legal perspective, international copyright law remains a point of confusion (as it was with BPI), a haze we are adding clarity to by offering jurisdiction specificity for our licenses. A similar complication arises in from the murky question of what commercial use is and what it isn’t – another issue we are attempting to tackle through our noncommercial use study.
Regardless of these questions, for artists and record labels looking to distribute songs to music blogs under terms that allow sharing, CC licenses are a great option for all parties. They are legally tested, easy to understand, and free.