# Tuesday, 26 January 2010
(Note: This blog post is based on an idea I have for setting up a non-profit dedicated to promoting the Creative Commons licensing model for music using cloud infrastructure. I may revisit and modify this post periodically as the model gets fleshed out.)

As a musician growing up in the 80's, the "hip" thing to do was sampling other works and incorporating them into new arrangements. It was, and still is, a very creative and rewarding process that produces what are commonly referred to today as "mashups". I typically used Jazz samples. Others, like Vanilla Ice, used more recognizable samples from artists like Queen and David Bowie.

The artists of the sample source rarely received royalties for the redistribution of their work. Eventually, litigation started and a new precedence became established that prevented the creation of new works from existing works without the owners consent.

I had no problem with the concept of attributing other peoples work or sharing in any commercial success as a result of repurposing work into my own. I got in the habit of working with the Harry Fox Agency before pursuing such projects and budgeting appropriately for using samples. But still, artists (and most their publishers) had to be "pulled" into remixing opportunities.

Some visionary artists, like Peter Gabriel, were going out of their way to re-mix and "push" their samples to us and gave control of the faders to remix their songs into new and unimaginable soundscapes.

Lawrence Lessig's work "Remix" touched on the very heart of this issue and several questions are being raised about the future of music in light of the entertainment "cloud".

Is not the creative work of Danger Mouse's (probably not his real name) Grey Album a brilliant piece of creative work and masterpiece in it's own right, even though it is a mashup of existing digital media?

Should a parent be penalized for adding background music to the video of their childs 5th birthday and publishing it to YouTube?

Would a song like Chris Brown's 'Forever' had achieved such stellar commercial success had it not been viewed on YouTube over 40 million times in a non-commercial use?

There is a solution to this problem. The Creative Commons was established as a nonprofit corporation dedicated to making it easier for people to share and build upon the work of others, consistent with the rules of copyright.

They provide free licenses and other legal tools to mark creative work with the freedom the creator wants it to carry, so others can share, remix, use commercially, or any combination thereof.

To truly embrace the cloud and the Creative Commons involves:
  • Artists and labels rethinking the publication of their works and undergoing a 2.0 release of their works as reusable samples for use in other works.
  • Artists allowing non-commercial use of their works and defining the terms of commercial use.
  • Mashup artists attributing works to other artists and participating in the re-distribution of works through both commercial and non-commercial channels.
There are those that oppose this model.
  • Performance Rights Organizations (PROs) like BMI and ASCAP are entrenched in securing performance royalties on-behalf of commercial artists.
  • The ability for artists to allocate ownership percentages to studio musicians and other contributors threatens the traditional 50/50 Publisher/Artist model in common use today and would displace traditional royalty accounting systems.
  • Commercial Music labels are wedded to decades-old formulas that control the 360 degree image and distribution of an artists work.

To make this work:
  • New publishing and accounting systems are required that allow artists to offer the equivalent of fully vested 'stock options' on works.
  • New mashup publishing systems that allow original and mashup artists to negotiate the percentile distribution of commercial redistribution revenue (for example, an artist may use 5 samples in a song, giving each artist 10% and keeping 50% for the new work. The other 5 artists should have a voice in accepting proposed terms).
  • Artists must consider bypassing traditional "record deals" and work with progressive publishers.
  • Artists must write-off the non-commercial use of their music as a marketing expense.
  • Artists must package their work for convenient use by mashup artists and editors.
  • Consumers and Mashup Artists must attribute use of all works to the original artist.
  • It must be convenient for a Consumer or Mashup Artist to register their new works for commercial use and revenue must be quickly, easily, and fairly redistributed.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010 16:03:30 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)