On CBC podcasts and CC-licensed music available for commercial use

On Friday, Michael Geist broke the story that the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation had apparently banned use of CC-licensed music in its podcasts. This seemed odd, given that the CBC’s Spark podcast has long used, promoted, and done interesting projects with CC-licensed music.

It is always gratifying to see CC supporters (superheroes even!) quickly respond — see stories on Boing Boing, Slashdot, and Techdirt.

CBC Radio’s program director responded with a comment on several of those stories, excerpted here:

The issue with our use of Creative Commons music is that a lot of our content is readily available on a multitude of platforms, some of which are deemed to be “commercial” in nature (e.g. streaming with pre-roll ads, or pay for download on iTunes) and currently the vast majority of the music available under a Creative Commons license prohibits commercial use.

In order to ensure that we continue to be in line with current Canadian copyright laws, and given the lack of a wide range of music that has a Creative Commons license allowing for commercial use, we made a decision to use music from our production library in our podcasts as this music has the proper usage rights attached.

Everyone can rest easy– there are no “groups” setting out to stop the use of Creative Commons music at the CBC, and we will continue to use Creative Commons licensed music, pictures etc. across a number of our non-commercial platforms.

It is good to know that the CBC will continue to use CC-licensed works in some cases, and their explanation of why not in others. And it is true that only a minority of CC-licensed music is released under a license that permits commercial use — for example, about 26% of the nearly 40,000 CC-licensed albums on Jamendo.

However, as Michael Geist, Cory Doctorow, and many others have subsequently pointed out, CC-licensed music that does permit commercial use ought be allowed. Geist:

A better approach – one that respects the choices of both artist and producer – would be to require that programs only use music with the appropriate rights, which could include some CC licenced music.

Bigger picture: finding, sharing, and supporting music under CC licenses permitting commercial use

Hopefully the CBC will listen to the feedback of Geist, Doctorow (both Canadians, as it happens), and others. However, the incident is a good reminder of the opportunity for music under CC licenses permitting commercial use, sites and curators that facilitate finding and sharing such music — including letting people know about the many that do exist.

(Note that many musicians have chosen to release music with CC licenses containing the NonCommercial term with good reason; this post is meant to point out the opportunity for others, not a critique of those who have chosen to limit commercial use.)

Jamendo may host the largest current collection of CC-licensed music permitting commercial use. See (and contribute to) our wiki article with tips on finding commercially usable CC-licensed music for much more at sites ranging SoundCloud to Wikimedia Commons to Libre.fm.

If you’re an artist with experience sharing music, including for commercial purposes permitted under an appropriate CC license, or the developer of a site or other service for discovering, distributing, supporting such music, or otherwise add to this ecosystem, please let us know — and thank you!

6 thoughts on “On CBC podcasts and CC-licensed music available for commercial use”

  1. i just don’t see why the CBC should use “pre-roll ads” or any adds at all or whatever let their sites seem or be “commercial”…
    national public radios should be completely “non-commercial” imho

  2. You haven’t explained why the CBC or any broadcaster should use Creative Commons–licensed music at all. You take it as a given that your licence format has a right to be used. Care to justify that?

  3. I’m sure that if they contacted CC music creators they would find that people like myself dont count this as commercial usage.

    My music is allowed on radio, podcasts and DJ’ing gigs regardless if they use ads. As far as im concerned this is promotion for the music. Even though some of the music on my website has the “Non-Commercial” rule, in my FAQ it it waivers podcast, radio and DJ gigs.

    So they should really check these things out before putting a blanket ban.

  4. I think theres a bit of hypocrisy with CBC. There maybe some pressure within the music community to have them use some creative commons music on podcasts but at the end its all about the bottom line. Money that is.

  5. They can easily search for creative commons licensed music which allows commercial usage. As it was pointed out earlier, many websites that track CC music allow you to search for tracks that allow commercial usage. Not really clear why a blanket ban is necessary… and switching to an American company too? Also, why were contracts with other talent agencies even brought up in the first place? I think there is more to this than we are being led to believe.

  6. Joe, where do you see it taken as a given that CC-licensed music (assume that’s what you mean by “license format”) has a “right to be used”? Copyright holders give permission to use with a CC license; of course nobody is forced to take them up on it, and nobody claims that.

    Now as to why the CBC (for example) ought to not exclude appropriately licensed material — most obviously because it harms producers and listeners — limited choice for the former, and the latter discover less music they can share and reuse legally, wearing on one barrier to participation instead of passive consumption.

    I see from your site that you’re a “cranky” anti-free-culture advocate. I have zero expectation of convincing you that anyone might find it in their interest to release works under a CC license or to use such works, but thanks for the good questions!

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