[cc-community] Copyleft And Commerce

rob at robmyers.org rob at robmyers.org
Fri May 26 06:34:32 EDT 2006

Quoting Greg London <email at greglondon.com>:

>> There really should be a Free Music Foundation that pays session
>> musicians an honest rate to lay down drum and guitar tracks,
>> commissions songwriters to perform acapellas, and gets the
>> documentation required to prove that the tracks are clean for use in
>> other BY-SA work. They may accept contributions from commercial
>> projects *if* they pass due diligence. This really is the sort of
>> project that is needed, there are artistic and video and literary
>> equivalents that are needed as well.
> I agree, and I see problems in teh way:
> (1) What is the minimum amount of time that a person needs to
> invest to make a contribution to such a project?

If we take the FSF or real-world open source projects as a model (not 
that they
are ideal, just that they are a useful model) then it's actually quite 
a lot of
time. Quality hacking takes time.


They'd be paid for several hours as a session musician.

Or they'd be required to co-operate with the foundation to do due diligence on
their contributions.

But then making art for other people, rather than amusing oneself musically,
does require a lot of time anyway.

> How does that compare to the amount of time that it takes
> a complete newbie to contribute a minimal improvement to
> wikipedia?

They can download cleared material, rip it legally to their MP3 player and
listen to it to their heart's content, or change the mix or make a quick
mash-up. They would not upload it back to the FSM site, though. This is not a
graveyard-for-free-expression model, it is a quality-selection-for-an-audience

> Would free music be better sounding than all rights reserved?
> Would the goal be bigger, like free movies?
> Would the movies be better?

They would be Free, which is ethically better. But would they be aesthetically
better? Aesthetics may be unethical, and bad art comes from the best of
intentions. But unrestricted access to high quality materials to learn or
derive from may help make more better art quicker. This would be helped by
Freedom. So there may be a utilitarian argument for the aesthetic benefits of
the ethics of Freedom.

To take the example of Elephants Dream, if someone improved the character
movement animation the film would be even better than it already is. 
Having the
source under BY (grrr...) allows this, you couldn't do that with "Ice Age".

> I don't know the solutions to these problems,
> but I think they are solvable. And I think
> they need to be solved before a free music
> project could ever be successful on the same
> level as linux or wikipedia.

Certainly. But size is no guarantee of quality. A few good tracks would be
better than a sea of mediocrity.

> (1) minimum time to contribute needs to make
> it easy for someone to find music they're
> interested in contributing to. If a newbie
> musician could record a track, upload it to
> the site, have it analyzed by some software,
> and figure out where similar music is, then
> that might help. Maybe a guitarist could upload
> a guitar track, and then software could find
> possible drum tracks that could go with it.

The probem with cultural works rather than software is evaluation. If a patch
doesn't run, it isn't accepted. If a track has low aesthetic or technical
quality, it also should not be accepted. We then come to how we define
aesthetic quality, which is a problem, but rcord companies seem to think they
can spot it. :-)

This is different from Wikipedia, which is *not* structured as an open source
project. It doesn't refuse contributions (although it does rollback). The free
music foundation would refuse contributions that couldn't pass legal due
diligence or or quality control. This would be no different from Linux: Open
Source projects are selective about accepting contributions.

> (3) A song project is too small.


> An album project might be a good seed.
> Or maybe a small set of albums.
> But a seed for what? It has to be big
> enough to inspire people to contribute
> and small enough to be achievable.

If we take the example of DJ Danger Mouse's Grey Album, that used an acapella
version of The Black Album mixed with other music (The White Album...). So
getting enough material for album(s) would be a start. But you get albums of
breakbeats and bass lines and synth lines as well, so all these would be good
root contributions.

People do not have to contribute back to the project, they just have to be
inspired to use it and to make their own projects on the same principles. Some
of these may be at the FMF, some elsewhere. And we shouldn't undervalue the
importance of listening as an entry point for casual users.

- Rob.

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