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October 29, 2004 at 10:34 am #3553
This is from the guardian’s website. Any implications for the games industry?
A new group of licences about to be introduced to the UK could offer a more flexible approach to copyright law. Becky Hogge reports
Thursday October 28, 2004
In the summer of 2002, Steven McDonald, the bass player with American punk-pop band Redd Kross, had an idea. Listening to White Stripes – the minimalist Detroit duo who produce their stripped-down garage sound with just a guitar and drums – he wondered what it would sound like with a bass track. So he downloaded a White Stripes tune and tried it out. He liked it so much that he did their whole album, eventually uploading the new bass-laden tracks to his website, complete with a Photoshopped cover featuring himself as third band member.
What McDonald did was illegal under copyright law. Although he called it performance art, many others call it plain old theft. Luckily for him, the Stripes’ Jack White gave him the thumbs up backstage at a concert one night. Unfortunately for the rest of us, becoming a virtual third member of our favourite band remains a distant dream.
But perhaps it is not as far away as it seems. On November 1, a group of new copyright licences will be released in the UK, arriving from the US under the umbrella of Creative Commons (CC). The project is the brainchild of Stanford University’s law professor Lawrence Lessig, and the licences allow artists to move away from traditional copyright’s “all rights reserved” towards a more digital age-friendly “some rights reserved”.
The different types of licence allow artists to choose which rights they wish to maintain. They could keep the right to exploit works for commercial gain, to veto derivative works or ask to be credited each time their work is reproduced. In turn, those encountering CC licensed works on the internet know immediately how the original artist feels about the use of that work without having to ring lawyers.
The licences, available free from creativecommons.org, break down into three parts. A document explains clearly which rights the licence controls. The second “lawyer-readable” document ensures the licence’s admission to the courtroom, fitting the new rights in with legal mechanisms particular to where the artist lives – CC is being ported to 60 jurisdictions around the world.
The third part of the licence is machine-readable code that allows search engines, such as the one hosted at creativecommons.org, to find content based on the type of licence under which it is released.
This search facility is CC’s greatest strength. Although Creative Commons does not keep a record of everything licensed under CC, it does require that online licensed content links back to its website. The search facility then finds content according to what the searcher wants to do. So if you need a photograph of Yul Brynner for a non-commercial class presentation or a commercial magazine article, not only will you find it but you will also know whether you are allowed to use it.
Obviously, for CC to take off, it needs to be endorsed by a wide range of content producers. Next month’s issue of Wired, the American technology magazine, includes a CD of exclusive tracks from David Byrne, Chuck D, The Beastie Boys and others, all released on CC licences. All but three of the 16 tracks allow for non-commercial and commercial (excluding advertising) copying and sampling.
So will Robbie Williams, who announced last year that he thought music piracy was “great”, release his next album with a CC licence? Probably not. Lessig says many established artists are unlikely to routinely adopt CC until they see benefits, which will be demonstrated by more marginal artists breaking new markets under CC and the resulting collaborative projects gaining critical acclaim.
One area where licences are likely to grow rapidly is with the written word. Already, net-aware writers have released their works for download under American CC rules. For out-of-print works, CC is a watertight legal mechanism that plugs gaps in demand without an expensive new print run – as the technology publisher O’Reilly demonstrated, by offering more than 150 such works for free download.
Here, Creative Commons has serious backers. To encourage the circulation of its work, the thinktank Demos has been releasing reports under a CC-influenced open access licence. But the biggest backer is the BBC. The Creative Archive – which would see chunks of the broadcaster’s archive posted for free download and sampling – was enabled by the approach to copyright of the Creative Commons team.
In the battle against copyright infringement that the British music industry recently joined, Creative Commons will “wage peace”, Lessig hopes, with an incoming generation of media users accustomed to downloading and remixing content from the net.
October 29, 2004 at 12:49 pm #15405
should be moved to “Legal & Policy” me thinks, and I’ll read through & comment in due course
October 30, 2004 at 10:07 pm #15421
i use the creative commons licence to my advantage in the music/ film world..
http://www.magnatune.com has a CD of mine and tracks or the whole lot can be downloaded using the licence..
for not much money for private use and a good fee for use in a film/ documentary scenario..
i’m sure this could benefit more people..
worth looking into
October 30, 2004 at 10:09 pm #15422
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