[cc-sampling] sampling/recombo

MARK / negativland markhosler at bellsouth.net
Fri Aug 6 04:14:51 EDT 2004

At 12:58 AM -0700 8/5/04, Glenn Otis Brown wrote:
>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.

It's about more than that- its about being 
responsible for things you set in motion, about 
being respectful of the time and energy of those 
you ask to help, and about  sticking with the 
process you set up up to debate, discuss  and 
make decisions, and not bailing when it becomes 
"annoying".  Those things didn't happen so well -

A year and a half ago Negativland  was invited 
to speak at a CC event in SF. I planned for this 
in my schedule. At the last minute, things were 
changed, and our appearance was dropped. This was 
somewhat frustrating.

In working on the  CC sampling license, Glenn/CC 
would periodically go completely silent for a 
month or more, with no explanation, leaving us 
all hanging and not knowing what was up. This was 
confusing and frustrating and happened on at 
least 3 occasions I can recall.

Commitments were then made about getting back to 
the list in a timely way. Sometimes that didn't 
happen. This was confusing and frustrating when 
Negativland remained very committed to seeing 
this project through. Commitments were made about 
when the official  announcements would go to the 
public. Then....more silence.

There was talk of us attending a  sampling 
license "launch" in SF this past winter or spring 
( I can't recall the exact dates) . I penciled 
this in and was in the dark about it until I was 
told it was  cancelled.

Last summer Glenn agreed to write  some text for 
the next Negativland project. Many months went by 
with no text forthcoming. When I asked about it, 
there was silence...I tried again...more 
silence....and then, finally,  a commitment to 
sit down and actually write it. But....nothing 
happened. More silence. More months went by (it 
caused us to have to delay our release schedule 
as we kept waiting for it and really wanted to 
include it). It did finally get done, though only 
after 8 months or more of pestering. This was 
very confusing and frustrating, especially 
considering that we "worked" for CC on an 
entirely volunteer basis. (Unlike Glenn, we are 
not paid).

Glenn invited Negativland  to be part of the 
launch in Brazil this summer  and I tried to work 
this into  my schedule, yet could get no reply 
for nearly 2 months about wether it was really 
happening or not.  This was *extremely* confusing 
and frustrating as we got closer and closer to 
the actual date of going to Brazil and had no 
idea what was up.

And, finally, with CC totally dropping  the 
decision making process we were the project leads 
for,  there was the brief announcement of the 
seemingly arbitrary re-naming of the sampling 
license into the name RECOMBO.  My comments on 
this were made to the list  and were completely 
ignored for almost 2 months.  There has been no 
real response or explanation  of  any of this by 
CC until today.

To all at CC reading this- I am sure  things look 
very different and valid from your end. I 
acknowledge that and wish you all the best of 
luck in future endeavors.  But perhaps you can 
see how the accumulation of all these events 
listed above  might gradually lead someone 
outside of CC to think you guys can be more than 
a little bit flakey, unprofessional, autocratic, 
careless, and disrespectful of the time and 
effort put into your projects by volunteers.

I can't speak for Don, but this has made it  darn 
hard for me to stay enthused about working with 
you folks. Others on this list seem to express 
similar thoughts, and that's something you might 
want to think about in how you handle your future 

I wish I felt better about all this, because in 
the bigger picture, the stuff CC is doing  and 
the stuff we did with CC is a good thing.

appropriatively yours,
Mark Hosler

>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 
>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 wish.
>(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 thought.)
>(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. Icing.
>(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: 
>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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