Remix Alex Burr’s CC-licensed tracks

Eric Steuer, December 12th, 2005

Lowell, MA-based zine and music publisher Outlet is hosting a remix contest to promote Neighbor Hater, the new CC-licensed album by Alex Burr. From Outlet’s press release:

[D]ownload the raw tracks from three songs: Neighbor Hater, Throne of Blood, and Bullet Train. From there, it’s all in your hands, use whatever you deem necessary to create the music that you want using the raw tracks. No holds barred, no styles banned, no limits, no rules, no guidelines.

No limits? Sounds like fun! And, of course, don’t forget to enter the Copyright Criminals Remix Contest over at ccMixter.


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Economic Analysis

Mike Linksvayer, December 7th, 2005

Caltech economics professor Preston McAfee appears to be mad as hell about high journal and textbook prices, and he’s doing something about it. He’s published a complete Introduction to Economic Analysis textbook under a Creative Commons license. See his page about the license and high textbook prices:

Why open source? Academics do an enormous amount of work editing journals and writing articles and now publishers have broken an implicit contract with academics, in which we gave our time and they weren’t too greedy. Sometimes articles cost $20 to download, and principles books regularly sell for over $100. They issue new editions frequently to kill off the used book market, and the rapidity of new editions contributes to errors and bloat. Moreover, textbooks have gotten dumb and dumber as publishers seek to satisfy the student who prefers to learn nothing. Many have gotten so dumb (“simplified”) so as to be simply incorrect. And they want $100 for this schlock? Where is the attempt to show the students what economics is actually about, and how it actually works? Why aren’t we trying to teach the students more, rather than less?

In addition to including a prominent CC license notice in the textbook PDF, the license is briefly mentioned in the subject text in the context of explaining sources of monopoly, page 2517 (emphasis added):

also confers a monopoly for a supposedly limited period of time. Thus, the
Disney Corporation owns copyrights on Mickey Mouse, copyrights which by law
should have expired, but have been granted an extension by Congress each time
they were due to expire. Copyrights create monopoly power over music as well
as cartoon characters, and Paul McCartneyTime-Warner owns the rights to the song “Happy
Birthday to You,” and receives royalties every time it is played on the radio or
other commercial venue. This book is copyrighted under terms that expressly
prohibit commercial use but permit most other uses.

Via the Freakonomics blog, which includes links to additional data from McAfee about journal prices.

Also check out the Science Commons Publishing Project.

Update: Thanks to a suggestion from Luis Villa hardcopies of Introduction to Economic Analysis are now available at Lulu.

Update: The current version of the textbook contains the correction noted above regarding “Happy Birthday” ownership. Thanks to Gordon Mohr for pointing out the error in a comment below.


CC in Review: Lawrence Lessig on Important Freedoms

Lawrence Lessig, December 7th, 2005

[This email is part of a weekly series written by Lawrence Lessig and others about the history and future of Creative Commons. If you would like to be removed from this list, please click here:
Alternatively, if you know others who might find these interesting, please recommend they sign up at ]

From last week’s episode:
Next week, I’ll turn to some of the critics of Creative Commons. But this week, indeed, right now, we still need your support.

The story continued…
Creative Commons is a young organization. And while we’ve been more successful than I ever imagined we’d be, we’ve also made mistakes. Some of these mistakes we’ve corrected. Some I hope to persuade us to correct. But throughout the three years since our launch, we have worked hard to build a solid and sustainable infrastructure of freedoms for creators.

Along the way, we have picked up some critics. I don’t have the space here to address every criticism. In this email, I’ll talk about just two — one directed at our NonCommercial license option, and the other at two of CC’s non-core licenses. But I’ll continue this discussion next year in a new forum that we’ll launch just for this purpose. Mark Shuttleworth is my model here, and I will be a part of that discussion whenever I can.

In the meantime, a bit from our critics.

(1) Criticism of the use of Noncommercial licenses
In an article in, Erik Möller argues against the use of a Creative Commons NonCommercial (NC) license. His argument has five parts, but the core is a concern about incompatibility. As he puts it, “[f]ree content is no longer a fringe movement.” He cites Wikipedia as an obvious example, and correctly points out that content licensed under a NC license can’t be included within Wikipedia. This is a problem, he argues, especially for “collaborative projects.” As he says, “marking up regions of content as non-commercial and consistently following these boundaries is almost impossible in a collaborative environment.”

Möller is absolutely right. The NC license does interfere with this sort of collaboration. It does create potential incompatibility. Of course, as Möller also acknowledges, there is incompatibility even without the NC restriction: As I described last week, it’s not possible to mix content licensed under the FDL with even an equivalent CC license. That’s because both licenses, as they are presently designed, block interoperability. This is a real problem for the ecology of free culture. And again, as I argued last week, this is a problem that Creative Commons intends to fix by launching a project to federate free licenses to encourage interoperability between licenses of the same type.

Yet even if we succeed with federation, the problem that Möller describes will remain. Some license types are incompatible with others. And among the kinds of incompatibility most likely to cause trouble is exactly the sort Möller has identified: The NC restriction will block content from being included within ShareAlike projects such as Wikipedia.

So what’s the solution? My recommendation is much like Möller’s — use the least restrictive license that you can. But I say “much like Möller’s” because my sense is that he’d really like to see the NC license never used at all, and I believe, given the wide range of creators using CC licenses, there are important cases where a NC license makes sense.

For example, imagine you’re in a band and you’ve recorded a new song. You’re happy to have it spread around the Internet. But you’re not keen that Sony include it on a CD — at least without asking you first. If you release the song under a simple Attribution license there’s no reason Sony (or anyone else) couldn’t take your song and sell it. And I personally see nothing wrong with you wanting to reserve your commercial rights so that Sony has to ask you permission (and pay you) before they can profit from your music.

Möller suggests you can avoid this problem by copylefting the song, using, for example, a CC-ShareAlike term. As he argues, “[a]ny company trying to exploit your work will have to make their ‘added value’ available for free to everyone. Seen like this, the ‘risk’ of exploitation turns into a potentially powerful benefit.”

But this is not quite right. The ShareAlike requirement kicks in only if the adopter makes a “derivative work” out of the song. Merely adding it to a CD isn’t a derivative work. So that’s not a sufficient protection against this particular form of exploitation. And it is thus for this sort of case that the NC term is designed.

It is certainly true, however, that for a great deal of the creativity being added to the net — especially in the context of collaboration — there’s not much need to protect commercial rights. My blog, for example, is licensed under a simple Attribution license. CNET Japan translates the blog and sells advertising around its content. For my purposes, that’s just fine. I write to spread ideas; I try to avoid tariffs where I can. From my perspective, Möller is certainly correct: the least restrictive license is enough for me. And I would generalize the point: We all should use the least restrictive licenses that we can, consistent with our goals.

We’ve not done a good enough job helping users understand this. Möller is right to call upon Creative Commons to do better. We will do just that. But the lesson Möller is absolutely right to teach is that we all should consider the consequences of our choices. Some will want nothing more than that their content be available noncommercially. For them, the NC license is a useful option. But others really simply want their work used and incorporated into the remix of the net. For them, the NC option may do more harm than good.

(2) Criticism of the Sampling and Developing Nations License
Creative Commons offers six core licenses. Each of these six gives people the freedom “to copy, distribute, display, and perform” the work. But in addition to these core licenses, Creative Commons offers two licenses that don’t give these freedoms. These are the “Sampling” License, and the “Developing Nations” License.

The Sampling license was inspired by the band Negativland and one of Brazil’s most famous musicians and current Culture Minister, Gilberto Gil. Basically, it say this: you can remix, or “sample” this content. The default Sampling license says you can even remix for commercial purpose. But the default Sampling license also says you don’t have permission to copy, distribute, display or perform the underlying work. Those rights are reserved. The only right given away is essentially the right to make a certain kind of derivative.

The Developing Nations license is different. It was inspired by activists in the Access2Knowledge movement —most prominently, Jamie Love. They wanted a license that would free content (completely) within developing nations even if it wouldn’t alter the rules for that content outside of developing nations. So the Developing Nations license basically says that this content is free even for commercial use within a developing nation. But outside of the developing nations, ordinary rules apply. That means for content licensed under the DevNat license, outside of developing nations, there is no right to copy, distribute, display or perform the underlying work.

Richard Stallman criticizes the one element that these two licenses have in common — that while they both secure important freedoms, they also both forbid (for some groups at least) the right to “copy” the underlying work. For him, that right is fundamental. And thus for him, any license that denies this fundamental freedom does not deserve the support of Creative Commons. He’s thus asked us to either drop, or disassociate ourselves from, these two licenses.

It’s extremely important first to clarify what this disagreement is not. Some of you will remember the battles between the “free software” and “open source software” movements. To some, those were battles between a movement that believed in values and a movement that believed in pragmatism. The disagreement between CC and Richard Stallman is not of that sort. It isn’t pragmatism that drives us to adopt the Sampling and DevNat license. It is instead a different conception of value. CC will never offer licenses that secure just any freedom; we believe CC licenses should only secure important freedoms. But that’s precisely what we believe these two licenses do — they secure important freedoms, even if they don’t include the freedom to copy. That’s not because the freedom to copy is not an important freedom in some contexts, or for some creators. But the freedom to copy is not an important freedom in all contexts — at least if it interferes with other important values.

For example, imagine you’re a teacher in Nigeria. You want textbooks to teach Algebra to your Fulani speaking students. That you would have the right to copy a particular English textbook isn’t really of much use to you. What you need is the right to translate that book. In that context, the derivative right is the critical one; the right to copy is unimportant.

The same point could be made more generally. Our view is that the necessary freedoms in different domains of creativity are not necessarily the same. That music could be different from software, software different from film. And as we have done throughout this project, we have asked leaders in different fields who share the values of freedom to help us understand what values are important within those specific fields. Gil and Negativland know something about music. So when they say that the freedom to remix is critical even if the freedom to copy is not, it would take a great deal to persuade us they are wrong.

The same is true of the DevNat license. The target here is creativity that depends upon a domestic market but never expects to exploit a developing nations market. So, for example, one of the coolest adopters of these licenses are architects designing low-cost housing. They’ve marked their designs with the DevNat license, meaning people in the developing world are free to do with them what they want. But in their view, at least, they can’t also give these designs freely to their direct competitors.

These creators may be wrong. Gil, Negativland, and Jamie Love might be mistaken about what rights the relevant creators need to keep. But what’s needed is an informed debate among creators about what freedoms they need. We hope to encourage this debate. But in the meantime, we’ll continue to guide ourselves based upon the values that the relevant communities have identified.

As I’ve said, there is much more I should say about other thoughtful criticism. This email, however, is already too long. We’ll announce the discussion space sometime early in the next year. And stay tuned next week when I’ll turn to some of the particular projects we’re working on right now — as well as ask again for your support.


CC announces Copyright Criminals Remix Contest

Eric Steuer, December 7th, 2005

Attention all remixers: ccMixter is hosting the new Copyright Criminals Remix Contest. Producers from all over the world are encouraged to use CC-licensed audio samples from Kembrew McLeod and Ben Franzen’s upcoming documentary film Copyright Criminals in new musical compositions. The best entry will appear prominently in the final version of Copyright Criminals and the top twelve tracks will be featured on the film’s companion CD. Download a PDF containing the official contest rules and read our recent press release announcing the competition.

“This contest, like our documentary, examines what it means to be creative in an age of digital reproduction,” says Kembrew McLeod, co-director of Copyright Criminals. “Artists have traditionally borrowed from each other and have been directly inspired by the world around them. But what happens when digital technologies allow for very literal quotes to be inserted into new works?”

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La Vie Chill

Mike Linksvayer, December 7th, 2005

Technical wizard (music and code) Victor Stone retired as the lead ccMixter developer a few months ago. So what’s he doing with all that extra time (apart from continuing to commit ccHost patches)? One would assume a chunk of it went into completing his new album, La Vie Chill.

Victor explains:

[I]t’s dedicated to my new favorite place to hang out on the web, where else, ccMixter. One of the emergent stars of the site, Eric teru Ohara (think Nordic Irish Asian Canadian brilliant),
gave me a fantastic remix that I used “as is” thank you very much. For
the rest of the album I made extensive use of samples from Magnatune
(for which I pay royalties per sale) and ccMixter (for which I got
permission to pillage), but I really feel as though these are original
compositions — by the way: does anybody else recognize the oxymoron in
the term “original composition” or is it just me?

Visit the album page to listen/download/buy/license and see links to all of the sources Victor used on the album.

A funny thing about Victor’s site: he’s incorporated ccHost (see his tag-a-rific catalog) and WordPress (blog), with both sharing the same look. ccHost was intended for remix communities, but you can’t restrict good software to its original use. Same goes for good content…

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CC in Review: Lawrence Lessig on Compatibility

Lawrence Lessig, November 30th, 2005

[This email is part of a weekly series written by Lawrence Lessig and others about the history and future of Creative Commons. If you would like to be removed from this list, please click here:
Alternatively, if you know others who might find these interesting, please recommend they sign up at ]

From last week’s episode:
Next week I’ll describe a second initiative that we’ll be launching over the next year. And while this second initiative will be important for Creative Commons, it will be critical to the ecology of creativity generally. Stay tuned.

The story continued:
Creative Commons didn’t invent the idea of free public licenses. Richard Stallman did, at least in the first broadly successful way. Nor did Creative Commons invent the first free public licenses for content. Before our work, there were many others who had followed Stallman’s lead, releasing free licenses tuned to creative work. The Art Libre license is perhaps the most famous. The BBC’s Creative Archive licenses are the most prominent recent examples, freeing access to important British culture, at least for British citizens. And finally, the Free Software Foundation’s GNU Free Documentation License is a copyleft license designed initially for software documentation, but used most prominently by the Wikipedia project.

These free licenses all share a common goal. With each, the aim is to give creators the opportunity to offer others important freedoms. The particular freedoms may be different. The Creative Archive licenses, for example, are not all copyleft. And the restrictions of the FDL make it inappropriate for much of the work covered by the Art Libre license. But these differences reflect the diversity that exists across creative communities. The important point is not the differences but instead the common aim.

Yet all of these free licenses, as well as the current versions of all Creative Commons licenses, share a common flaw. Like the world of computing in the 1970’s, or like the world of content that DRM will produce, these licenses wrap creative work in ways that makes that creativity incompatible.

For example, imagine you’re a high school student writing a report about the philosopher Wittgenstein. But because you’re a high school student in the 21st century, your report won’t be a traditional essay. It will instead be a short film. Your title is “Wittgenstein’s World, Today.” And you create your movie based upon Wikipedia’s biography of Wittgenstein.

Your plan is very simple: You’ll set the life described in the Wikipedia entry to film, supplement it with images that you find in Flickr, and add music that you’ve downloaded from Opsound.

As I described earlier, perhaps the most important feature of digital content is that from a technical perspective such a project is now trivial. Technology now gives creators — at a relatively tiny cost — the ability to take sounds and images from the culture around us and remix them to produce something new. A high school student using off the shelf technology will find no technical barriers to the remix I’ve just described. Of course, you’ve got to be good creatively. It’s not easy even with the best technology to make a film. But that challenge, one might well think, is the appropriate challenge for a creator. Get the technology out of the way, and let the difficult task be the task of creating.

Yet there’s another difficulty lurking in this story that many are just becoming aware of within the Free Culture Movement. You might be able — technically — to remix all this creativity. But can you remix it legally? Will the licenses that “free” content permit that free content to be remixed?

The astonishing (and for us lawyers, embarrassing) answer is no. Even if all the creative work you want to remix is licensed under a copyleft license, because those licenses are different licenses, you can’t take creative work from one, and remix it in another. Wikipedia, for example, is licensed under the FDL. It requires derivatives be licensed under the FDL only. And the same is true of the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license that governs Opsound content, as well as much of the creativity within Flickr. All of these licenses were written without regard to the fundamental value of every significant advance in the digital age — interoperability.

We’re going to fix this. Or at least, we’re going to try. One way would be for everyone to use just one particular Creative Commons license. But bullying the world into using a single license is neither consistent with our values nor sensible for the ecology of free culture. So instead, we are launching a project to facilitate interoperability among sufficiently compatible license types. And we will work hard to persuade others within the free license ecology to join us in this movement.

Here’s the basic idea we’re starting with (though recognize that there will be lots of discussion before we settle on any final plan). As you’ll see, it builds upon the strategy we’ve already adopted to assure compatibility across licenses in different jurisdictions:

Creative Commons licenses come in three layers: (1) a human readable Commons Deed, which describes the freedoms associated with the content in terms anyone should be able to understand; (2) a lawyer-readable Legal Code — a license — that makes enforceable the freedoms associated with the content; and (3) machine-readable metadata that makes the freedoms associated with the content understandable by computers. You can visualize the three together like this:

Early on, we started porting our licenses to other jurisdictions, so that people around the world can license their creativity under local law. In that process, our aim was to assure that creativity licensed in one country was compatible with creativity licensed in another. Thus we multiplied the licenses at the second layer of our architecture, creating something that looks like this:

Today we announce the beginning of a project to explore expanding this interoperability beyond Creative Commons licenses. We’ve begun a process to build a board (what we’ll call the Creative Commons Legal Advisory Board, or ccLab for short) that will be composed of experts in licensing from around the world. This board will establish procedures by which similar free licenses, upon submission from the license curator, can be deemed “compatible.” And if a license is deemed compatible, adds CC metadata to express the freedoms associated with the content, and links to a Commons Deed, to explain the freedoms associated with the content, then we will certify the license as within the federation of free licenses that we’re trying to build. This world will then look something like this:

If we succeed in this project, then creative work will more easily be able to move from one license to another, as creativity is remixed. And this ability for creative work to move to compatible free licenses will provide a market signal about which licenses are deemed more stable, or reliable, by the free licensing community. Free culture will no longer be ghettoized within a particular free license. It will instead be able to move among all relevantly compatible licenses. And the world of “autistic freedom” that governs much of the free software world will be avoided in the free culture world.

This project won’t, of course, make incompatible licenses compatible. For example, work licensed under an Attribution-NoDerivatives license can’t be mixed with work licensed under an Attribution-ShareAlike license. That incompatibility, however, is intended by the creator. And while I agree with many that we should work to reduce this sort of incompatibility as well, I believe it is much more important to eliminate unintended incompatibility first. The creators who are joining the Free Culture Movement by releasing their creative work under free licenses do so because of the values those licenses express. They don’t do so because of the particular flair of legal prose that one free license might have over another. We must find a way to push the egos of the lawyers off of center stage, so that the values of the creators can finally be realized.

This is not an easy project. It will require lots of support. Most importantly, it will require all of us within the Free Culture Movement to put aside our own parochial interests, and work to cooperate for a sensible end. As Richard Stallman famously said:

“If we don’t want to live in a jungle, we must change our attitudes. We must start sending the message that a good citizen is one who cooperates when appropriate…”

Stallman is absolutely correct. The creators who have chosen the values of free culture don’t want a world where their creativity can’t be used consistent with their values. We who are building the infrastructure of free culture have a responsibility to respect their values.

Next week, I’ll turn to some of the critics of Creative Commons. But this week, indeed, right now, we still need your support.

We’re one month to the end of this drive, and have a long way to go. Check out the Red Hat dollar for dollar challenge.

From flickr to The Charlie Rose Show

Mike Linksvayer, November 29th, 2005

Photo by Steve Jurveston licensed under cc by.

Steve Jurveston comments about cool uses of his CC-licensed photos on Flickr:

Imagine my surprise when I heard that the Charlie Rose show found my photo on flickr and wanted to use it on broadcast TV.

They were interviewing Gordon Moore, co-founder of Intel and seer of exponential trends in technology (“Moore’s Law”). They wanted a photo of Dr. Moore pursuing his passion for fishing, and they found my photo entitled Moore Fish.

Thanks to Larry Lessig and the Creative Commons license for making this so easy. There have been so many cool uses and remixes of my photos ever since I switched from copyright to CC in flickr, including textbooks on lasers, fourth grade geography projects, and a variety of very cool graphic art mash ups from Argentina.

The Charlie Rose Show is a popular interview program on U.S. public television.

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Red Hat challenges you to support Creative Commons

Mike Linksvayer, November 28th, 2005

Red Hat, a company with considerable claim to being the open source leader, has generously agreed to participate in the Creative Commons fundraising campaign with a Sponsor Challenge Match. Contribute now and double the impact of your gift to Creative Commons!

Thanks Red Hat

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Job Opening – Science Commons Counsel

Mia Garlick, November 28th, 2005

Creative Commons’ Science Commons project is looking for legal counsel to run its licensing work. Details are here.

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CC in Review: Lawrence Lessig on CC Licenses

Lawrence Lessig, November 23rd, 2005

[This email is part of a weekly series written by Lawrence Lessig and others about the history and future of Creative Commons. If you would like to be removed from this list, please click here:
Alternatively, if you know others who might find these interesting, please recommend they sign up at ]

From last week’s episode:
In the next two weeks, I’ll describe two other new initiatives that will define our work over the next year. And then this path of missives will turn to consider some criticisms of what we’ve done and where we’re going. Stay tuned, but fear not: I promise to be finished by Christmas!

The story continues:
From the start, we’ve had a simple slogan: “Some Rights Reserved.” A Creative Commons license gives permission to exercise some rights, but also allows the author or creator to keep some rights to him- or herself. Thus the meaning of a BY-NC (Attribution-NonCommercial) license is not that the author would never grant commercial rights. Instead it simply means that the commercial rights are not granted or “pre-cleared” by the Creative Commons license. To get the commercial rights, you need to ask the author first.

Many people have never understood this about us. They’ve confused “commons” with “communist.” They’ve suggested we believe that artists don’t need to eat. But nothing in our mission is against artists profiting from their work. Indeed, our message from the start has been that for at least some creative work, and some artists, the exposure that a Creative Commons license offers could help the artist profit from his or her work.

Today we announce a project to make that message clearer. Over the next six months, we will be developing a new feature with some Creative Commons licenses to enable creators to add links to permit users to commercially exploit their works.

We call this project “,” and while the details are still being hammered out, here’s the basic idea: Let’s imagine you’re a musician who is happy to have your music shared noncommercially. But, like most, if someone is going to make a profit from your work, you want a piece of that pie. So while you’ll allow members of the public to use your work noncommercially under a Creative Commons license, you reserve the commercial rights. But you’d also be very happy to offer the commercial rights to others on certain terms.

Here’s how might work. You come to the Creative Commons site and select your Creative Commons license. If you select a license with a NonCommercial license element, then we’ll give you the choice of partners who might be able to offer your work commercially. (Alternatively, you could simply specify a link back to yourself for any commercial licensing.)

If you select a partner, the system would pass you through a partner site to enable you to specify the commercial terms associated with your content. That information would be added back to the Creative Commons license as a link to the partner site. Your Commons Deed could then look something like this:

So that when someone comes to your Commons Deed, they would be informed of the rights you have licensed to the public for free use and enjoyment. But then they’d also be given a link to a site where they can buy something more than what is given for free. That something more could be more rights. It could be CDs. Or it could be anything that you and our partners decided would be useful to offer through the Commons Deed link.

Creative Commons would not be running these commercial sites. Except for selecting trusted partners, we would have nothing to do with any commercial transaction. Our aim would simply be to enable another link between the artist and a fan, so that the artist could more directly profit from his or her creativity.

We’re already tinkering with the technology to make this work. We’re beginning to talk to potential partners. There’s lots left to be done. But I’m confident that within the next 6 months, we’ll be launching this important new Creative Commons initiative, with the support, I’m confident, of many important creators.

Next week I’ll describe a second initiative that we’ll be launching over the next year. And while this second initiative will be important for Creative Commons, it will be critical to the ecology of creativity generally. Stay tuned.

One final fundraising plug: It took a lot of work, but I convinced my staff to re-release the original Creative Commons t-shirt, with a slight, but important, modification. Check it out here.

And buy millions for your friends here.

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