chriszabriskie (Artist)

Artists: Chris Zabriskie 

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chriszabriskie on 10/24/2011 at 09:00AM

Why I Went CC BY

I’ve been releasing my music under a Creative Commons Non-Commercial license for a few years now. I’ve always wanted my records to be free to download and share with others. A Creative Commons license, while not the ultimate solution to the world’s copyright law problems, is definitely an easy and clear way to make that known. However, a few weeks ago, I changed the license on all of my records from the Non-Commercial (CC BY-NC) license to a much more permissive Attribution license (CC BY). This means anyone can use my songs in their creative projects, even if they are commercial in nature. All I request is credit.

Why? I understand that allowing free commercial usage of your art might sound crazy to many musicians. What if someone uses your song to promote or sell something that you don’t agree with or wouldn’t sponsor? And why shouldn’t you be making money from it, too? I look at it this way: there is a complete dearth of good music in the world that is also free for other artists to use. The Free Music Archive is leading the way in that regard, but the demand is overwhelming. Take video, for example. There are 48 hours of new video being uploaded just to YouTube every minute. Somebody, somewhere, always needs music for their project.

Now, Creative Commons licenses help a lot of those video makers out, and a Non-Commercial license makes sense for many works, but in the end, who are we really protecting our art from? The Coca-Cola Company doesn’t go digging through the Free Music Archive when it’s putting together a new campaign. It’s people with Etsy stores making videos to advertise their new, handmade products. It’s filmmakers who, while the goal of making their short film isn’t monetary, can’t use BY-NC licensed music because one day they might press up some DVDs and try to make back some of their expenses. And if that dude’s free Flash game gets really popular, he’ll be on the search for different tunes once he wants to sell it in the App Store. Bummer. Think of all those people not listening to your music when they otherwise would be.

You have to think outside the very dusty box if you want anyone to hear what you do, let alone buy it. In my case, I can give away my records, but also work on commissioned projects as another source of income. A film I worked on a couple of years ago (as well as one I'm working on music for now) utilize a combination of new compositions and some of my CC-licensed songs that are here on the site. Just being a part of the Free Music Archive for a month has already brought a number of new composing opportunities my way. These artists might never have heard my music if I hadn't licensed it the way I have.

So my view is don’t just "give it away" -- release it into the wild in a way that encourages new things to be created from it, and don't penalize someone who might get lucky enough to make some money in the process. Let people do what they want with your music, and they'll promote you. Then keep moving forward. Keep creating something new to share. I get to create and express myself, people get to listen, and other creative folk can take what I do and make something new from it, free from worry about getting sued. We all win at that point, don’t you think?

Here are some rad people that I’m not going to sue:

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chris zabriskie