Re: [linux-audio-user] Free Music licenses: which to choose?

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Subject: Re: [linux-audio-user] Free Music licenses: which to choose?
From: Graham Percival (
Date: Mon Sep 30 2002 - 02:28:06 EEST

On Sun, 29 Sep 2002 12:02:34 +0200
Christian Schoenebeck <> wrote:
> Es geschah am Samstag, 28. September 2002 22:53 als Graham Percival schrieb:
> > - I can copy it, modify it, and then release it with a very
> > restrictive license.
> No, you can't, because when you just modify my work, it's still part of the
> modified version. So you're still making use of my work.

Er... yes, I'm using your work. Let's look at the license again:

> You can use, copy and (re)distribute my work as long as you do
> not make money out of it. The latter is only permitted by my
> prior written authorization. Contact me on any ambiguities
> regarding this license.

I think I'd still be allowed to take your work, modify (use) it, then
redistribute it under a restrictive license. I'm not making money off
of it; I'm just using it to enhance my own reputation, or to send to
a small group of people, or something like that.

To prohibit that, you'd need some form of a "viral" clause; something like
"... use and redistribute my work as long as the extra copies are placed
under the same license." (it's worded very poorly, but you get the general
idea. It's hard to word it properly)

> > - I can copy it and place it in a "members only"
> > portion of my business partner's website. *I'm* not making money out of
> > it.
> I don't see a problem with this as long as it's fee free to become a 'member'
> of your site and

Suppose that it doesn't cost any money, but you have to install some spyware.
I collect data about suckers who come to hear your great piece, and then I
sell it.

You could argue that I'm indirectly making money off your work, but I don't
know how much "indirectness" the courts would allow. If you want to prohibit
really indirect things, then what about this:

In this example I'm an honest musician. I hear your piece, I really like it,
and I record a version of that piece with me performing it. I stick that onto
the net for people to enjoy and don't try to make any money out of it. Somebody
listens to it and thinks that I'm a great musician, and then hires me to play
for his wedding.

I've just indirectly made money out of using your work, but in a (IMO) pretty
honest and fair manner. Is that allowed under your license? I don't see how
you can permit the "honest musician" example while not allowing the
"dishonest website" example.

(although now that I think about it, I don't think that any of the Free licenses
would really work against the dishonest website)

> > My other concern, that many of the Free licenses can't work together, is
> > still valid. For as long as I live, somebody can ask me "is it ok if I
> > use your work in my Design Science-licenesed project" and I can reply
> > "yes, I give you permission for that", but if I die -- and a few
> > contributers to Free software have unfortunately done so already -- then
> > that option is lost.
> Hooo, you're looking that far?

Releasing material under a Free license can be a big deal. Right now most of
the things that are ready for release were one-weekend pieces; not such a big
deal. But later on, I'll be releasing things that I worked on for months.
I want to make sure I use a good license that prevents exploitation yet allows
people to use my material.

I _could_ just toss off a short license for my current material and then
make/use a better one for my later stuff -- but why not use a good one right
now? Then I only need to deal with the "lawyer stuff" once. :)

> > Writing a good Free license that can't be exploited isn't all that easy,
> > which is one reason why it might be good to have one or two "main" free
> > music licenses.
> I'm still not convinced why to do so. Taking your arguments above, I guess I
> would win about 90% of court procedures (especially if there would be a
> jury). But go ahead, perhaps you're really show me a point why such long
> license agreements have their sense.

The best reason is that, AFAIK, courts generally follow the technicalities
rather than the intent. The intent behind your license is clear, but the
technicalities aren't firm.

In addition, I don't _want_ to argue this in court. If the license is
well-written and fairly tight to begin with, then (hopefully) a dishonest
company won't bother trying to argue the technicalities in court.

Finally, (this is very much "as far as I know") a court case involving copyright
issues (in North America, at least; where I live) generally awards damages
based on lost revenue. If I was selling my music for $10 each piece and
somebody illegally copied it 100 times, I'd collect $1000 (plus a bit extra).
If I'm sharing my music for free, then how does the court decide how much
to award me? Yes, it should obviously give me whatever the bad company
was selling my work for. But I'm not certain that it would be a simple
matter to convince the court to do that. The whole scheme of copyright
is based around the notion of selling your intellectual property.

Basically, the best defense is a good offense. If I have a good license
to begin with, then I won't have to deal with lawyers. I'd rather spend
one hour consulting with a lawyer now rather than spend hundreds of hours
fighting a court case. :)

- Graham Percival

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