[cc-sampling] sampling/recombo

Glenn Otis Brown glenn at creativecommons.org
Thu Aug 5 03:58:57 EDT 2004

I think the most important point here is: let's not miss the forest for 
the trees, let alone the *names* of the trees. This whole thing is 
about the name of a license. Just say that a few times out loud, and 
think about everything else going on in the world, and even in the 
world of copyright, before reading onward.

Now on to the details.

(1) The change is just in name (yes, this will be a refrain):

The license hasn't changed a bit in substance -- not at all, not even a 
letter. It still embodies Negativland's idea for free transformative 
derivatives. It still contains the ban on advertising -- an idea which, 
for those of you who have been on the list from the beginning will 
remember, I originally opposed as untenable, but which we wound up 
including in the license anyway -- and which I now come to see as 
absolutely crucial, as Negativland's arguments have sunk in over time. 
I think this fact -- and the fact we have had this discussion publicly 
at all -- say a lot about (1) how much we care about this license being 
good and (2) how much we truly value and act on input. Aspects of this 
license -- the license itself, actually -- would not exist if we hadn't 
established and listened to this list.

(2) The change isn't necessarily permanent or irreversible:

Like everything we do, there's room and time for change, if that's what 
is necessary. So don't spaz. It's not like we took the dollar off the 
gold standard or blew up a dam and flooded a village. Get some 
perspective. If disaster ensues, if people's heads explode trying to 
decipher the meaning of the word Recombo, we'll consider changing it.

(3) Go ahead

As Kelty notes, if people want to continue calling it Sampling, I'm not 
going to send out our standing million-man army to stop you. (No, wait, 
that's China with the million-man army; we have 5 full-time employees, 
some part-timers, and a lot of great volunteers, but none of them is 
particularly prone to or capable of repression.) Please, do as you 

(4) The change to Recombo:

When we launched Creative Commons in Brazil, part of the process was to 
translate the sampling licenses. In the process, the Brazil volunteers 
renamed the license "Recombinacao," the Portuguese translation.

(a) The night before the big event in Porto Alegre (described in the 
links posted earlier to this list), the Brazil team and the CC team 
started talking about the names of the licenses, and we thought it 
would be cool to have an internationalized name -- one more or less 
pronounceable and understandable across many countries (because based 
on a latin root). In every way we're trying to become a more 
international organization; wouldn't it be cool if we could coin an 
international-friendly term that conveyed the the full range of 
possibilities, we thought? The license is not merely about "sampling" 
after all. (Plus, this list had exactly zero feedback from non-English 
speaking representatives. Might be nice to give them some input, I 

(b) Our Brazilian project lead Ronaldo said that re:combo was the name 
of a avant garde art movement in northern Brazil that perfectly 
embodied the spirit of the license; that was a nice little coincidence. 

(c) Next, and of particular importance, this was a decision made in the 
excitement of the moment -- when we knew we'd have an audience of 1000 
people (yes, 1000 people came) hearing about CC for the first time in 
their home country; when our highest-profile licensor by far (Gil) was 
about to release a song; when the largest newspaper in Brazil had just 
run a front page story in its entertainment section in Brazil on the 
entire event, and more Brazilian press was poised to follow-up.

(d) Most important, it seemed like a nice gesture to Mr. Gil and the 
Brazil team, who have put in many months of work to make Creative 
Commons a possibility in Brazil. They have put in at least as much time 
and constructive effort as the leads on this list, and far more than 
almost everyone else on this list combined.

And let's not forget -- or maybe I haven't been clear enough about this 
on this list, which is my fault -- that Gil brought us the idea for 
this license around the same time Negativland did. The Brazil team has 
done an amazing job making Creative Commons a reality in a hugely 
important country in the global IP debate. This email list got the 
opportunity to create the actual license, and I'm very grateful for 
that. But I hope it's not so controversial that another crucial 
Creative Commons stakeholder from another part of the world got to 
contribute in their own way -- without *in any way* affecting the 
substance of the license? I hope this diplomatic point gets through, 
now that I've explained it, and I am sorry I didn't take the time to 
explain it before.

(5) My fault

I do wish I'd made this explanation earlier, just to give you insight 
on our thinking on this. But I really didn't think it would be this big 
a deal. It's just the *name* of the license, after all. Full 
explanations take a lot of time and energy sometimes, particularly on 
this list, which frankly can get very tedious and talk-talk-talk with 
little resolution. Which leads me to my next point:

(6) My participation on this list

I, like most people, when confronted with a choice between (a) doing 
important work that does not give me a headache and (b) doing important 
work that gives me a massive headache, will choose (a).  Now, most of 
the discussion on this list has been hugely productive. Negativland's 
substantive contributions are invaluable. But there have been many 
times in the past when my heart sinks just to think about reading the 
latest 2000-word diatribe about this or that, with exactly no positive, 
constructive recommendation resulting. (You think I exaggerate? Just 
pick an email from the archive.) Let alone to go about responding, only 
to be ignored or have words put in my mouth or fantastic paranoid 
scenarios of Halliburtonesque scope attributed to me. I guess it'd be 
nice to be so powerful, but if I were, I wouldn't be typing a response 
an email list at midnight, would I?

Early on on this list I proposed that Attribution be an optional 
element in the license, only to be told that this would be 
"anti-artist" and that attribution was the key to getting artist 
participation. So I agreed and switched my position. I was then told, 
by the same person, that requiring Attribution was "fascist." (The 
ideological hyperbole on this list is really something else.)

All this is to say that participating on this list is a massive pain, 
much more than anything I've seen on any list we have. I'm not drawn to 
spend a lot of time doing unnecessarily painful things, or (incredibly) 
to being cast a villain or tyrant. I bust my ass for and care a lot 
about this organization and I don't have to have my time wasted after a 
certain point. You'll forgive me for avoiding the headache from time to 
time, when other work needs tending to.

(7) The purpose of this list

The purpose of this list is not to vote, and even less to have squeaky 
wheels determine outcomes. I've been over this before, but here it is 
again. (See attached image or this page: 

This image makes clear: ultimately CC is going to make the decision. 
That decision doesn't have to be final, forever, but it does have to 
come from us ultimately. Those who work here have a fiduciary duty to 
this organization. You do not. I shouldn't really have to explain that. 
And if you think that there's no difference between (a) an advisory 
list, with several public suggestions being folded into the final 
product, and (b) no list at all, I really can't help you.

I would think that you'd understand if we're more open about the 
fundamentals of the license (what really matters) than we are about 
marketing (all this about the *name* of a license?). And besides, like 
I said, the lack of consultation on the name change was mostly a 
function of (1) a time crunch and (2) consideration for other players 
in the CC universe who happen not to be on this list.

Again, I apologize for not explaining all this more quickly. Again, if 
the sky falls on us, we'll consider changing the name. In the meantime, 
let's recognize exactly what all this is about:

You all were genuinely instrumental in helping create the actual 
license. As a matter of marketing and international goodwill and 
timing, we changed its NAME. If we've made an error in judgment, it's 
our error, not yours, and we can always change it back. (Just as we've 
changed many things about our other licenses after getting feedback 
from the public: http://creativecommons.org/weblog/entry/4216)

In the grand scheme of things -- the forest, the actual struggle that 
we're all involved in -- this is big whoop over not much.

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