Light of the Stereo

Light of the Stereo

Friday, February 8, 2013

Brought To You By the Letter C

Brought To You By The Letter C:
Copyright and Creative Commons

            When it comes to music, the big C doesn’t stand for cancer, but copyright.  Copyright is the reason downloading music illegally is a crime.  Somebody was nice enough to give it a cool name, piracy, yarrr matey, but it’s still a crime.  On the surface Copyright law makes a bunch of sense.  It’s way to incent people to be creative, and reward them for their work.  The founding fathers agreed that a reward system was needed, to incent creation, but also understood that the system could go too far and end up stymying innovation.  What they also realized is that creativity often relies on use, criticism, supplementation and consideration of previous works.  Thus they believed that copyright law should be structured in a way that would give authors a monopoly just long enough to create more (Vaidhyanathan, n.d.).  It was with this in mind that the original copyright law was good for one term of 14 years, and you could apply for a second term if you felt it was warranted.  After that the works entered the public domain.

            What is the public domain you ask?  Basically, once a work’s copyright has expired, or the author has designated it public domain, the work becomes free to reproduce in any form, whether you’re talking about just a plain copy, or turning a book into a movie, or writing a new book based on the characters, covering a song, or using a sample from the song to create a new one.  In other words, free to all, and in the words of F'n' Lou from Fight Club, “aint that something.”

            And it is.  The problem is the laws have changed drastically since the countries inception.  Now a copyright is good for the life of the Author plus 70 years, or if the work was commission by a corporation, 95 years (“How long does copy protection last?” 2010).  What this means, is less and less things are hitting the public domain,  which in turn means there is less clay for us to mold new works.

            It doesn’t have to be this way.  The digerati have come up with a system that allows more open sharing of works with in the current system.  This is called Creative Commons.  The way Creative Commons works, is it allows creators to assign shareable rights to their work.  Meaning you can allow your work to be used if credit is given to you.  You allow your work to be used if it’s not used for commercial purposes.  You can also choose whether you will allow people to alter your work, or if you only want it to be used verbatim.  

            You may ask yourself, why would I go through the trouble of sharing work in this way?  The reason is it helps supplement the material that is no longer flowing into the public domain.  It also allows for a more collaborative environment.  It allows your work to live on past its original use.  Wouldn’t it be cool if you produced a song, and found it was used in a student film, or a sample of it was used in somebody else’s song?  These are the sort of things that can happen when using Creative Commons.

            Still a bit foggy on the concept, below are a couple of You Tube clips that do an excellent job of explaining Creative Commons. 

Creative Commons Website:


How long does copyright protection last?  (2010, March 10).  Retrieved from

Vaidhyanathan, S.  (n.d).  Copyrights and copywrongs:  Why Thomas Jefferson would love Napster.  MSNBC.  Retrieved 2012, February 2 from

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