Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Creative Commons Leads to Uncommon Opportunities

Jonathan Coulton continues to serve as the model for the 21st Century New Media artist. He launched his career by posting -- and giving away -- a new song every week for a year. Coulton's fully embraced the concept the Creative Commons license, which is to allow fans to use his music as they will. They can share it with friends, they can remix it, they can use it as the basis for something of their own. The only string attached is one of credit -- if you use Jonathan Coulton's music, make sure he's credited.

And so what's been the result of this craziness? After all, if an artist's music isn't locked down under copyright, if every single play and every single copy doesn't generate revenue, won't the artist starve? That's the stance of the RIAA.

Coulton shared some thoughts in a letter on the Creative Commons website.
"...there was something so compelling about the Creative Commons license, the idea that you could attach it to a piece of art you had made and declare your intentions - please, share my music, put it in a remix, make it into a music video. I was thrilled and emboldened by the idea that I could give my songs legs, so that they could walk around the world and find their way into places I would never dream of sending them. I immediately started licensing my songs with CC, and a year later I quit my job to create music full time."
[not sounding very hungry to me; much less starving]
" growing audience started to feed back to me things they had created based on my music: videos, artwork, remixes, card games, coloring books. I long ago lost track of this torrent of fan-made stuff, and of course I’ll never know how many people simply shared my music with friends, but there’s no question in my mind that Creative Commons is a big part of why I’m now able to make a living this way. Indeed, it’s where much of my audience comes from - there are some fan-made music videos on YouTube that have been viewed millions of times. That’s an enormous amount of exposure to new potential fans, and it costs me exactly zero dollars." [emphasis mine]
And now Jonathan Coulton's released a new album in a form that would give any member of the RIAA nightmares. As a fundraising premium for the Creative Commons organization (he considers it giving back to the community), "JoCo Looks Back" is being released as a limited edition USB thumb drive. In addition to 20 of Coulton's most popular songs, (and album artwork), the 1GB drive also has the source tracks for all the songs.

Which means you can remix, rearrange, and rework Coulton's material to your heart's content. And because it has a Creative Commons license, you're legally allowed to do so. Jonathan Coulton gives you permission.

I'll be sending in my contribution to get this drive -- how about you? I'll be doing it for several reasons:
  1. 1) I'm a fan of Jonathan Coulton, and I want the songs.
  2. 2) As a musician, I'm interested in seeing how he put his tracks together
  3. 3) Creative Commons is the sane answer to new media copyright and fair use.
If you're any kind of creative artist, you need to know about Creative Commons licensing. Don't try to protect your work in the 21st Century with 20th Century tools.

- Ralph

Day 152 of the WJMA Web Watch.

1 comment:

  1. (oh wait - now I can)

    I want to hear your remixes. This would be a good interview subject, actually.