Creative Commons and Collecting Societies 

If you want to share your creation for free while maintaining your core copyright, creative commons (CC) licenses are your solution.

Even though ASCAP claimed that creative commons undermines copyright, the CC statutes explicitly declare that those licenses depend on copyright. Any CC license can only be issued for works that already developed copyright AND only by the proper right holder/s.

With a claim like this ASCAP of course created the perfect excuse for their unwillingness to cooperate with CC. Therefore, let’s take a look at the efforts and collaborations all over the world, so far;

There already are solid collaborations – called projects – in Sweden, Denmark, Netherlands and France.  What does that look like?
The easiest way to team work is being non-exclusive toward each other. Which means that creators in these countries don’t have to decide whether to become a member of a collecting society and reap the financial benefits of their work or not doing so for being able to share a piece or more for free.
Where a CC project has been established, right holders can do both at the same time. There they are free to choose a traditional or CC license for any piece of work.

Non-exclusivity makes so much more sense, especially regarding the fact that CC don’t collect any royalties. That still remains with the collecting societies.
How does that work? All projects in progress work pretty much the same;
All members can indicate the application of a royalty-free license to their collecting society for a single piece or a whole body of work. The license might not be a real CC license, but it has the same effects and/or restrictions on the usage. The collecting societies don’t implement CC, they offer their own version.

The main difference is found in the definition of “non-commercial “.

With the collecting societies, the range of non-commercial is as tight as usual, forbidding ANY financial benefit, even if just promotional. The CC definition of the term is not as strict.Which leads me to the following questions:

Why can’t copyright holders apply the CC definition of non-commercial?

Why can’t they allow users to gain profits from a cost-free license? Given the fact that “commercial” is mainly aimed d at the use of the piece. CCL are still cost-free for the licensee. The licensor can’t and won’t expect payment of any kind.
So, if a copyright holder decides to be generous and philanthropic the collecting society should stand back. They should focus more on working in the right holder’s interest, as they are supposed to, than acting like their existence was endangered by the CC. Artists shouldn’t be anxious about any kind of generosity and not just because of their fan base. “EVERY CC LICENSE IS AN INVITATION FOR COLLABORATION” – state of the commons report 2016

As a compromise I’d suggest the following exemption:
Copyright holders can issue commercial CC license if
– the licensee is a natural person
– the effective use is not primarily commercial (resale, distribution, etc)
– those applied CC licenses are indicated properly to their collecting society.

Collecting societies are supposed to work in the artists best interests, not for their own institutional goal. I understand they might feel threatened as a collective (pardon the pun) by transactions not controlled or at least overlooked by them. If the licensor doesn’t expect to be paid, where’s the problem?

But there’s hope. Since 2006 the use of CC licenses has increased tenfold with an equally awesome increase of creative human interaction, resulting in creative and scientific collaborations on a global scale.

In Germany the efforts of the CC initiative go even further. Under the name C3S the German initiative aspires to be not only a tool for disseminating and promoting CCL. The are currently working on establishing a new collecting society as an alternative to GEMA.

Still waiting for the draft of the future contract, so far.

What’s your take on this matter?

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