Could the Grateful Dead have been using Creative Commons principles decades ahead of time? This Matthew Helmke article from opensource.com makes the connection.
Although many bands at the time allowed fans to record shows, the Grateful Dead took the idea a step further. Fans who purchased “tapers’ tickets” were given access to a special area located near the soundboard. The band even encouraged tapers to share their recordings, as long as no profits were made on the sale of their tapes.
Creative Commons took inspiration from the Free Software Foundation (FSF) and its GNU General Public License (GNU GPL). Their goal is to find ways to use private rights for public good and to set creative works free, but only for certain uses.
Creative Commons has come up with a set of licenses that keep the power over creative works in the hands of creators while also freeing the content to be used in ways that modern copyright law forbids, much like the Grateful Dead did with their creative ticketing and taping permissions.
In the end, we get a legal means of fulfilling the freedom that the Grateful Dead allowed its fans, without gray areas that could lead to problems such as those that the Internet Archive had with the soundboard recordings of Grateful Dead concerts. This legal murkiness blocked access to those recordings for some time, although they are now available.
So the Grateful Dead has maintained a long and successful career using principles of openness and freedom that didn’t get formalized until much later in the Creative Commons licenses. I think it’s safe to say that the band would have used a CC license if they had been available at the time.
MP3 file structure – CC-BY GFDL – If you want to read this tap for larger
When I started recording readings of these books, I chose to offer them in OGG Vorbis format because it’s a free and open standard. That meant there would be no encumberances on the audio files due to patents or any kind of imaginary property (IP.) That’s important to me. I have licensed my novels with Creative Commons enhancements to their copyright, to ensure their freedom. They are not weighted down with digital restrictions management (DRM) because I want readers and listeners to be able to enjoy my books without having to restrict themselves to any single device or place. I use Free Software to write the books, and to convert them to useful formats, which are also free and open. I use Free Software to produce the audio recordings, and I use open standards to present them. For the audio, that meant OGG Vorbis, the best choice for the lossy compression needed to make the file sizes reasonable for downloading. At the time, the more popular format, MP3, wasn’t free or open. It was locked in a proprietary web of patents. I couldn’t insult my listeners by offering them something like that. It’s possible that this choice has meant fewer downloads of the readings because many people only recognize MP3 and might be unwilling to download something with a strange name like OGG. I was willing to take that risk because freedom and openness are important to me.
Vorbis trademark – Credit xiph.org – CC-BY
Lately the patents on the MP3 format have run out. Well, as far as I can tell. There were a mess of them held by a mess of people and organizations and I don’t have the training or experience to sort that all out myself. I rely on other sources for that, and they’re all saying that, once the patents finally ran out in the US, MP3 became an open standard. They hedged a little on that, apparently unwilling to commit themselves fully in the face of the the, uh, complexities of IP. I was hesitant too, but I decided to take the plunge and accept MP3 as an open standard. This meant that I could finally offer people the readings in a format that they recognized. This is good because, even though all modern operating systems and devices should be able to handle OGG, it sometimes requires the extra step of installing some necessary software to do so. People don’t like extra steps. After paying, sometimes quite a lot, for their operating systems and devices, they shouldn’t have to take extra steps to get them to handle a simple open standard like OGG. That’s annoying, and now I can finally make it a little less annoying for them by offering my audiobooks in MP3 format.
You’ll find them on the downloads page. Along with the direct links to the OGG Vorbis-encoded files hosted at the Internet Archive, there are now links to MP3-encoded versions. Don’t hesitate. Download them now.-)
At Unglue.it the combined downloads of Green Comet and Parasite Puppeteers have surpassed two thousand. To be exact, today they added up to 2,001. Unglue.it, which I have previouslyposted about, has been my most reliable outlet. It hasn’t accounted for the most downloads — that would be the Green Comet website itself. It’s not even the most productive external outlet — that would be BitTorrent Bundles. But it is the steadiest and most dependable outside of this website. While BitTorrent Bundles and other places have had big surges early on, they have tailed off to nearly nothing quite quickly. Unglue.it just seems to keep chugging along.
So, that’s another milestone for me and for my books. And it’s another chance for me to shine a light on Unglue.it. It’s also another chance for you to go there and see for yourself. Green Comet and Parasite Puppeteers aren’t the only books there. If you dig around you’ll find plenty of others that are at least as good. I’ve evenreviewed a few of them here. You should go over there and download some of them. If you like them you can go back and tell the authors. You can even give them a bit of money to reward their generosity, if you feel like it. That’s the beauty of Unglue.it. They’re freeing books, and giving us a chance to thank the authors at the same time.
As you know, my novels are published with a Creative Commons license. I use Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (CC-BY-SA), but there are other variations, depending on how you want to share your work. TechnoLlama, a blog I follow, has a piece on the resurgence of antipathy toward Creative Commons. (TechnoLlama by Andres Guadamuz is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.) That license is the same as the one I use, with the addition of the NonCommercial part. That means that Andres doesn’t want people re-using his work for commercial purposes, while I don’t mind if they do.
It is hard to imagine nowadays, but for a few years during the last decade Creative Commons was relentlessly attacked by some content owners, copyright maximalists and collective societies.
However, I have noticed a resurgence in criticism of Creative Commons.
Creative Commons has been extremely successful since its creation, and we must welcome debate and input about things that can be improved. At some point CC was seen as anti-establishment, a direct attack on copyright from clueless academics and pirates. After the open access movement gained traction, an interesting transition occurred, CC became a part of the establishment.
I’m glad that Creative Commons came along when it did. It took the copyright that is automatically applied to creative works and gave it greater scope and flexibility. Now, thanks to CC, I can share my work under my terms, while still retaining the power and authority of copyright. Before CC the only option was to declare the work Public Domain, relinquishing copyright.
This is awkward, asking for help when you’ve already done so much. You’ve already helped me more than you know just by downloading my books, and even more by all the encouragement you’ve given me. Some of you have even gone to the trouble of dropping a comment on the Green Comet website. So, thank you, and you should feel no obligation to do any more.
Even so, it might be the case that some of you wanted to do more, but didn’t know how. Or it might not have occurred to you that there was anything you could do. If that is the case, then I should be letting you know that there is something. In the years I’ve been doing this experiment — writing stories and giving them away to see what happens — I’ve learned a few things. I’ve learned that people expect a nice cover. They expect some extra information around the story, like blurbs and synopses, and even something about the author. I’ve gradually done all that and it’s getting better all the time.
There’s one thing I can’t do for myself, though. I’ve learned that people also expect reviews. Of course, there is some of that on my own website, and there is one review on the Green Comet page at Internet Archive. But there’s nothing on the sites where the book was uploaded by Pronoun. (If you go there you will see that I was required to set a price for the book. I also made sure to point out that it’s Creative Commons, though.) So, if you want to help me even more, and you have the time and inclination, you could go to one or more of these sites and post a review. It will help the book look more legitimate. Even a one-liner would be enough.
Thank you for all you’ve done, and I certainly don’t expect any more. But if that is your wish, then here are the sites.