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

Graham Percival gperlist at shaw.ca
Sat Sep 28 00:44:00 EDT 2002

On Fri, 27 Sep 2002 07:27:11 -0400 (EDT)
Taybin Rutkin <trutkin at physics.clarku.edu> wrote:
> On Thu, 26 Sep 2002, Graham Percival wrote:
> > Does anybody have a favourite Free Music License?  Right now I'm
> > leaning towards the EFF's OAL, but I really don't like their idea
> > that you should use (O) instead of (c).
> You haven't said what you want out of a license.  What rights do you
> wish to keep?  What rights are you giving away?

I was trying to start a general discussion, and I didn't want to sound
like "I want a license with X Y and Z, but I'm too lazy to read the
licenses myself."  :)   OTOH, it might be helpful to discuss examples
rather than general license issues.

I'd like to allow people to copy, modify, and distribute my
music, provided that they allow other people to do the same to their
material.  I definately want the "viral" nature of GPL -- if I release
(sheet) music as public domain or a BSD-like license, then a company
could (theoretically) hire some musicians to record it, make a CD, and
then sue anybody who distributes that over the 'net (a la RIAA).  I'm
certainly not opposed to commercial use of my music, but I want to get
royalties when that happens.

Basically, if somebody wants to play it for fun, they can (using the
GPL'd version); if they want to make money, I want a share too (by
reaching a seperate agreement with them).  Technically a GPL license
doesn't stop people from selling my work without giving anything to me,
but I doubt that many companies would be happy producing a CD knowing
that anybody is allowed to "pirate" it.

In case it matters, most of "my music" refers to sheet music produced
via LilyPond; with finished material, I make both the source files and
finished PostScript/PDF available.  I also make recordings of these
works when possible, but the recordings are of fairly low quality --
little if any editing, using any friend of mine who I feel comfortable
asking for a favour, with little rehearsal before recording.  The main
point of the recording is to function as a guide to
style/interpretation.  Most recordings will not be available under GPL. 
I'm not opposed to free redistribution/modification of the recordings,
but I'll want to insist that a prominent disclaimer be displayed ("these
are bad recordings that were slapped together with a minimum of effort.
Do not judge my abilities as a cellist based on these recordings").

Another concern of mine is how easily the license is understood (or at
least explained) by non-geeks.  I'll be advertising this to many of my
musical friends (both professional and amateur), and something like the
Design Science license (which talks about "source files" and "object
files") would probably be too confusing.

> If your only nitpick with the OAL is 0 vs c, use that and do what you
> want.

My concern is that the license states quite clearly that, in order to
specify that your material is under that license, you must use O instead
of C.

I'm considering writing something like this:
"(c) Graham Percival 2002.  (O) Graham Percival 2002 -- this material
can be licensed under the EFF OAL.  See http://blah for details"

Another quibble with their license is that they have lots of extra
material in there -- a long prelude that discusses why the EFF is
promoting this license, and a few examples of how to use the license at
the end of the page.  Ideally I'd just like to take the middle section
of the OAL -- the section with the actual license details.  I find it
easier to read and understand than most other free music licenses.  But
I'm not certain if I can just take the middle section(I don't see a
notice on the page that says "you may copy and use all or part of this
license"), nor do I know if I could call my "modified" license (really
just the Terms and Conditions section) the EFF OAL.  But this is
*really* just a quibble; I'm fairly happy to ignore this quibble, if I
could resolve the (O) issue.

> Personally, I haven't seen any Free Music Licenses that I care for.

Because they're too restrictive, or not restrictive enough?

- Graham

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