FreePlayMusic? I Don’t Think So

One of the things that is the most important when creating and using artifacts found on the internet and one of the basic philosophies that we hold, it that culture should be free (See Lessig and RRT’s own extensive discussion of permissions). Because I am the only team member to have had the opportunity to take Dr. Carter’s course on New Media, I have a deeper understanding of Lessing’s philosophy and how careful we must be when using artifacts found on the internet. However this complex issue continues to challenge even the most savvy users. We’ve been confronted again with the fact that, unfortunately, Culture is Not Free.

Anyone who is the least familiar with copyright law will understand this. Disney, being one of the top litigators for use of their material, (which makes it even sadder that they now own the Star Wars franchise) will sue the skin off your back for using any image that falls under their copyright.

Modern technology has altered the way that we use and share information. This is why Lawrence Lessig wrote Free Culture, a book that you can download for free which outlines how copyright power has changed over the past 40 years including how this industry has successfully used the legal system to limit competition to the major media corporations through legal action, thereby protecting their profits. Remember Napster? This all culminates into Lessig’s philosophy and reasoning behind the creation of Creative Commons.

This leads me to our latest dilemma. A team member mistakenly used a large amount of music from a particular website (which shall not be named) that claims, in its title, to offer “free” music to the public. However, as we near the end of this portion of the project, we find ourselves returning yet again to the “Terms and Conditions” to just to be sure. In our initial negotiations, it seemed our use fell within the parameters they’d set for free use. Adam (our video editor) decided to call directly. The first question was not how it would be used but where it would be posted. They asked: “Will it be on YouTube?” If the answer to that question was yes, nothing else mattered. That’s $400 a song. We used portions of six different songs. We did the math. Yikes.

Now we could probably find funding to support our uses of these songs. Given the amounts invested in our project thus far, this sum is hardly significant. However, it is NOT what we wanted our project to be.

It is very important to us that the source materials we use in our remix be available to others for reuse in new projects. For this reason, where ever possible we licensed everything we created ourselves through Creative Commons. We made extensive use of archival materials that are widely available. As often as possible, we drew from materials that carried a Creative Commons license or were in the Public Domain. Our project foregrounds permissions for primarily these reasons (for more about permissions within the prototype, visit “prototype“; for more about permissions within the project in general, visit “permissions“).

Needless to say, Adam is actively working towards finding new music that is actually FREE. Lucky for us, he is optimistic and not overwhelmed at all (like I would be). This does prove to be a powerful lesson for anyone who is using artifact (video, images, audio, and music) from the internet to be cautious about your choices. You should always make sure that your work falls within the legal guidelines. There are dozens of sites that allow fair use of the material.

Jennifer Jones

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