Not that long ago, I wouldn’t have entertained the idea of using a Creative Commons licence on my music. This is because when I’ve taken time to create sounds, used some interesting and unusual chords and maybe some unique effects then I’m happy for you to listen to it but not copy it, so would have used standard copyright.
And there’s the problem. It’s true that a copyright owner in the UK has both economic and moral rights. Economic rights cover acts that only the copyright owner can do or authorise. These include the right to copy the work, distribute copies of it, rent or lend it, perform or show it, communicate it to the public (including making it available online) or adapt it (e.g. making it into a play). Moral rights include the right to be identified as the author, the right not to have a work that they did not create falsely attributed to them and the right to object to the derogatory treatment of the work. Moral rights are rights authors retain in their works irrespective of who owns the economic rights – they can be waived, but not licensed or assigned. (Information courtesy of the Copyright Licensing Agency).
The problem is that if you want to copy, you easily can. There are services that work out what chords a song is comprised of. If you systematically applied the Key structure you’d probably work it out that way too. Listening to the song would help you identify what effects I used and you could easily replicate these. If you wanted to sample chunks of the song, there’s nothing by copyrighting a song that prevents this. Of course this applies to any song by any artist and whilst there are stiff penalties for copyright infringement, it’s not an easy task for an individual or band that doesn’t have the legal backing of a major record label, for instance, to prove or successfully take appropriate action against the infringer.
I’m not suggesting that you should infringe copyright, quite the opposite – as an artist these moral and economic rights are really important to me. But recently I’ve started using ‘found’ sounds, stems and field recordings in my songs that people have generously made freely available and that’s whats really got me thinking that if I make songs out of these freely available sounds, why shouldn’t I allow other people to have a certain amount of flexibility to use my subsequent creations in one way or another? They could easily create something more interesting or apply a fresh perspective which I hadn’t thought of. It would be great to see how such a work of mine could evolve.
That’s where Creative Commons comes in. It’s use has grown from 50 million licensed works in 2006 to 882 million licensed works in 2014. Of course you really need to make sure that you understand the terms of the licensing arrangements and the full implications before you start using them.
The latest version is 4.0 and the six licences are summarised below. I’d recommend appraising yourself fully of the terms and conditions on the Creative Commons website which is where the information in the table has been summarised from.
So for something you’ve invested your time and efforts into creating, by all means retain the full copyright, that is you’re right after all. But if you’ve used other peoples’ sounds, especially those that have generously been given for free, why not consider using a Creative Commons licence to further enhance and allow the creative process to continue to grow whilst still retaining an element of control to suit the specific circumstances?