How Musicians Can Use Creative Commons

What is Creative Commons?

According to their website, Creative Commons is “a nonprofit organization that develops, supports, and stewards legal and technical infrastructure that maximizes digital creativity, sharing, and innovation.” Their licenses provide “simple, standardized alternatives to the all-rights-reserved paradigm of traditional copyright.” Thanks to the internet, the means are now available to have near-universal access to information, which would allow everyone to participate in the dialog when it comes to culture, art, research, education, development, and progress. However, the strictures of existing copyright standards (as well as, ya know, access to computers and the internet) can prevent this full exchange. A Creative Commons license intends to remove those legal barriers while honoring both the content creator/”owner” and the participant/listener/reader, etc.

What will Creative Commons allow me to do as a musician?

Creative Commons’ some-rights-reserved approach allows for greater flexibility, sharing, and openness in terms of intellectual “property.” You, as the creator, can set the parameters for how open you want to be with your work. For instance, if you want to allow people to legally share your music, but without the work being altered in any way, that is fine. They’ve got a license for that. If you want to allow remixers to freely alter your master recording when they make new works based (in part) on your music, but to ensure that they give you credit, go for it!

Is Creative Commons for me?

You may be asking, Why would I want to do any of that? If sharing your creation freely for the good of mankind doesn’t ring any altruistic bells in your brain, look at it this way: the internet has changed the pace of everything, and listeners, remixers, and bloggers expect to be able to consume and comment upon works and ideas as soon as they’re created or published. The conversation is not yet instantaneous, but it’s getting quicker every day. This modern reality is at odds with the tightly controlled and measuredly-paced means of spreading ideas under the old standard copyright laws.

The past was about one-way dissemination. Today is about open conversation. If you’re not part of it, you’re losing out on opportunities to make new fans, promote and share your music and, perhaps most importantly, leaving a lasting imprint. The Big Book of Culture is a trillion pages long. Don’t you want to get a word or two in that’ll have an impact on the sentences that follow?

Creative Commons options

Here is a list and brief explanation of each of CC’s licenses, taken from their website (for full details, click HERE):

  • Attribution
    CC BY

    This license lets others distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon your work, even commercially, as long as they credit you for the original creation. This is the most accommodating of licenses offered. Recommended for maximum dissemination and use of licensed materials.

  • Attribution-ShareAlike
    CC BY-SA

    This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work even for commercial purposes, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms. This license is often compared to “copyleft” free and open source software licenses. All new works based on yours will carry the same license, so any derivatives will also allow commercial use. This is the license used by Wikipedia, and is recommended for materials that would benefit from incorporating content from Wikipedia and similarly licensed projects.

  • Attribution-NoDerivs
    CC BY-ND

    This license allows for redistribution, commercial and non-commercial, as long as it is passed along unchanged and in whole, with credit to you.

  • Attribution-NonCommercial
    CC BY-NC

    This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work non-commercially, and although their new works must also acknowledge you and be non-commercial, they don’t have to license their derivative works on the same terms.

  • Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike
    CC BY-NC-SA

    This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work non-commercially, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms.

  • Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs
    CC BY-NC-ND

    This license is the most restrictive of our six main licenses, only allowing others to download your works and share them with others as long as they credit you, but they can’t change them in any way or use them commercially.

    -Chris R. at CD Baby

    Sell music on iTunes in as little as 48 hours with CD Baby’s digital distribution service!



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