the Free Music Philosophy.
an anarchistic grass-roots, but high-tech, system of spreading music:
the idea that creating, copying, and distributing music must be
as unrestricted as breathing air, swimming in the sea, or basking
in the rays of the sun.
idea is similar to the notion of Free
and like with freeware, the word freerefers to freedom,
not price. Specifically, Free Music means that any individual has
the freedom of copying, distributing, and modifying music
for personal, noncommercial purposes. Free Music does not
mean that record labels and musicians cannot charge for records,
tapes, CDs, or files.
above definition of Free implies that any tangible object cannot
be made free. However, something that can be copied arbitrarily
many times, like music, should be set free. When we say music, we
mean the expression of ideas (in the form of a musical composition
or a sound recording) on some medium, and not the medium itself.
Thus you have the freedom to make a copy of a CD we've released,
the freedom to download soundfiles of songs we've released from
our servers on the Internet, the freedom to cover or improve upon
a song we've released, as long as you do not profit from that copy
is a creative process. Today, when a musician publishes music, i.e.,
exposes it to the outside world, only a privileged set of individuals
are able to use the music as they please. However, the artist has
drawn from the creativity of many other musicians and there is an
existential responsibility placed upon them to give this back unconditionally,
so creativity is fostered among people. As a dissenting opinion
in the Vanna White vs. Samsung case ,
Judge Kozinski writes:
creators draw in part on the work of those who came before, referring
to it, building on it, poking fun at it; we call this creativity,
Recording Act (AHRA) ,
action may be brought under this title alleging infringement of
copyright based on the manufacture, importation, or distribution
of a digital audio recording device, a digital audio recording medium,
an analog recording device, or an analog recording medium, or based
on the noncommercial use by a consumer of such a device or medium
for making digital musical recordings or analog musical recordings.
A literal reading of the
law indicates that individuals can make copies of music recordings
for personal noncommercial use and cannot be sued for copyright infringement
(at least as far as those devices listed above are used). The message
we get from this law is Music listeners, start copying!
Also, this is an American law, and the whole world does not march
to the tune of American law. The laws in your jurisdiction may or
may not allow the copying of music under different circumstances.
We, as the owners of the rights to our catalogue can give you permission
to copy our muisic, regardless of what any law anywhere
says, if that is our choice.
limiting your creativity to specific audiences, especially based
on monetary reasons, is shirking existential responsibility and
destructive to society as a whole. Today, when people create, they're
creating by standing on the shoulders of giants. Second, it's fair
that people pay for music only if they like it after listening to
it first; the present system does not allow for this for all forms
of music. Third, in order to prevent illegal copies
from being made, a tremendous burden (restricting legitimate expression)
must be placed on all individuals to circumvent what is human nature.
This is a rather impossible task and is probably the reason the
was passed in the first place. Fourth, the derivative works clause
prevents the incorporation of your own ideas to enhance other people's
expressions, and this is abridges the free exchange of ideas and
information. Finally, the current practices of the major recording
industry, which exploit both artist and consumer in the interests
of profit, are unethical, and we must take steps to redress the
property and other such rights have essentially existed
to benefit society rather than the individual. The U.S. Constitution,
for example, states that the purpose of Copyright is to
promote the progress of science and useful arts. The Free
Music Philosophy ensures that both society and the individual benefit.
The individual's creative freedom is completely unabridged. This
freedom is more important than any right society could
give. To quote Stallman :
over the use of one's ideas really constitutes control over other
people's lives; and it is usually used to make their lives more
currently make money through a variety of sources: sales of records,
merchandise and concert tickets, and royalties from commercial airplay,
(this is of course only applicable to large, antiquated rock-model
musicians). Freeing music will certainly not be detrimental to the
sales of merchandise and concert tickets, nor will it affect compulsory
or performance royalties. If anything, it will improve
sales since people will continue supporting artists they like by
going to their concerts and buying their merchandise. Profits from
record sales will also not be affected because people will be encouraged
to buy directly from the artist or small label for the added bonuses
of Vinyl liner notes, lyrics sheets, and packaging. Thus Free Music
can be used as a marketing tool to ensure that musicians do not
starve. And of course, for those forward looking and acting musicians,
who do not parade around on stages like their grandfathers, Free
Music is very seductive. It is a chance to reach audiences who do
not adhere to the old patterns that generate fan bases, perhaps
more seasoned and musically mature and ready for real innovation
in music. It is these people who will more redily understand and
adopt an approach where people send the label or artist a donation,
if they found value in the music they copied, understanding the
great difficulty of producing high quality mucic. This practice
of donations could become an ingrained practice in society, like
tipping, where even though there is no enforced requirement to tip
for various services, people do anyway. It has never been easier
for people to create and sell merchandise. In fact, it can be done
at no initial cost to the artist, by using services like Cafe
music at concerts, at least for personal noncommercial use, should
not be restricted. Chances are, most recordings that people make
at concerts are not going to be of high quality, but some will be.
These recordings can then be collected, assembled, and released
by the artist, much the way the Butthole Surfers have bootlegged
themselves. Here, there is some sort of a selection pressure for
the best songs recorded live and it is a great way to obtain low-cost
material for a future live album. In any case, the rock era, and
the era of 'gigs', 'bootlegs' and 'concerts' is over, so this is
not really a concern. :]
because the labels and artists will still retain all rights in order
to ensure against monetary exploitation by commercial interests.
Free Music can be used only for noncommercial purposes. This
does not mean you cannot receive payment for commercial uses of
your music. Fortunately, with respect to music, there already exists
some of this freedom (in the form of compulsory mechanical licenses
and the public performance model). No one can take your files decompress
them to WAV and then release them in a compilation for sale to the
public without prior consent; that would be illegal and immoral.
No TV or film producion company can use your material in a production
without your prior written consent. Synchronization rights are very
valuable, and are an important part of an artists survival strategy
under this system. Of course, these companies can download and preview
your music just like everyone else, but if they desire to use it,
they must pay.
the fact that except for a few hundred musicians who are on top
of the billboard charts, the chances of making a living by record
sales in the present system are very low. This system cannot be
worse for most musicians. In fact, this is an excellent reason to
justify the statement that most musicians perform and record with
creativity as the primary motivation---any money-minded person can
easily use their talents in other fields to increase the probability
of actually making some. Thus the source of talented music will
never dry up. What we might actually see is more creative and freely
expressed forms of music being released and heard by a wider audience.
to a study reported in the 19, January 1987 issue of the Boston
Globe, Alfie Kohn reports
on a psychological study that shows that creativity diminishes
if it's done for gain .
He writes: If a reward - money, awards, praise, or winning
a contest - comes to be seen as the reason one is engaging in an
activity, that activity will be viewed as less enjoyable in its
own right. With the exception of some behaviorists who doubt the
very existence of intrinsic motivation, these conclusions are now
widely accepted among psychologists. It follows then that
the best music I've heard to date is from artists, who are struggling
to make ends meet working two jobs, who are doing their music with
an inherent passion and a desire to share it with people, and not
because they have a contract to do so.
motivation has always been to provide purely expressed musical ideas
to the public with zero interference from us the record label. It
is a pointless waste of effort to endlessly complain about commercial
radio and major labels, and for the past 25 years, people have been
setting up thier own labels to make music available on thier own
terms, bypassing the major label system. Now, compression and the
web together give us an unprecedented opportunity to distrubute
music to everyone everywhere without having to deal with the useless,
non-paying, excuse making, wannabe-A&R distributors. Record
distributors have been the weakest link in the independant music
chain; some of them even dare dictate what records you the label
can and cannot release, and depending on their enthusiasm for a
particular release, your record will sell well or die a death, after
which, come the inevitable excuses. Now, thankfully the era of the
record distributor/record shop is over, and the new golden age of
independant record labels is here.
recording of music to a high technical standard requires investment,
and this investment comes from record labels. Old fashioned rock
groups, large scale classical music, and all musics that require
the use of expensive studios need an investment in the recording
process so that musical ideas can be executed and recorded at the
higest level of quality. Of course, many of the new and more interesting
musics are being made at home, so these people do not need investment
to record thier music. It is true however, that it is very difficult
for individuals to promote themselvs and generate downloads on the
web. Under the wing of a respected record label, an individual could
release her music at a very well trafficed site in order to tap
into a label fanbase, instead of going it alone in the wild wild
wilderness (WWW). Also, record labels that have the resources will
be able to promote thier artists in the traditional manner (PR,
adverts and features in the printed press) generating more hits
and downloads and revenues. Record labels with subpublishing agreements
will also be able to collect all royalties generated worldwide from
public performance and synchonization; an impossible task for the
freedom of copying and using music appeals to you and you would
like the idea spread around, then when you copy a album of anyone,
regardless of whether they follow this philosophy or not, send them
a donation to enable them to continue their making of music. What
you contribute should be dependent on what the music was worth to
you. You could also go to the artist's concerts or buy releases
and merchandise directly.
Finally, if you have the resources, you could support artists which
have adopted the FMP by putting their sounds on the Internet. Support
the music you like in some way! (This is independent of the notion
of Free Music.)
digital age, the quality of home recordings have substantially increased,
to a point where perfect replicas of audio recordings
are made easily. Recordings can thus be spread around without the
need for major distribution. If the music is good, it will spread
far more rapidly, in an exponential fashion, rivalling the distribution
power of a major record label. Further, the Internet allows for
a even greater distribution. If you consider the approach that asks
for donations, listed above, you could, in theory, make more money
than by being on a major label, and still retain all the creative
freedom possible. You will be eliminating all the middlemen and
be able to provide CDs for prices four times cheaper than what they
are sold for, and still make more profit per CD sold than you would
by being on a major label! Of course, you could forget making physical
sound carriers altogether, and survive only on the revenues generated
by downloaded files and royalties. This would be more ethical, since
it does not waste the worlds resources.
freeware idea in terms of computer software, which operates under
similar principles, has worked
Consider the fact that the best written pieces of computer software
are also software that can be copied without restriction (this includes
Linux, and all the GNU
software, and various software related to making music like sound
format converters, sequencers, and multitrack recorders). Further,
there is a thriving commercial sector based on the distribution
of free software. There is no reason why the Free Music should also
not produce equally excellent results.
- We have set up servers
on the Internet with our music; you can access the files here.
- We included a notice
of this form with all the files that we have released*:
are greanted permission to copy, and distribute the musical
compositions and sound recordings on this album, provided this
notice is included with every copy that is made. Distribution
is allowed on a noncommercial basis only. If you obtained this
by making a copy, and if you find value in this music and wish
to support it, please send a donation based on whatever you
thought the music was worth to the address given on this notice.
and included a copy
of this document, which is an adaptation of the original. If you
do support the Free Music Philosophy idea, and have a site on
the Internet, a link back to our site would be useful. In a small
sense, that statement is copylefting
die a death. It will cease to exist. Can you say 'Pan Am'? The pimps
will have their throats cut.
At last we will be able to disseminate our bold sounds unfettered.
we will have revenge.
major record label's stranglehold on what kind of music gets heard
by the masses will be finally broken. Music has become an institutionalised
industry that churns out garbage product for the lowest common denominator.
The music industry restricts copying and other uses of music in
order to maximise profit, but this comes at a great cost, that of
abridging the spread of creativity. This will change. It is now
possible for performers to spread their musical message directly
to the masses via high-technology, thus enriching the artist and
the music world in all possible ways. Music is about creative and
passionate ideas. Not product.
should freely spread from one to another over the globe, for the
moral and mutual instruction of man, and improvement of his condition,
seems to have been peculiarly and benevolently designed by nature,
when she made them, like fire, expansible over all space, without
lessening their density at any point, and like the air in which
we breathe, move, and have our physical being, incapable of confinement
or exclusive appropriation."
to do this, but found that it interfered with the smooth flow of files.
The notices are normally detached from the files after they are unpacked.
An extended ID3 format is needed to contain all the licences to properly
control a track.
- The GNU Manifesto
by Richard Stallman.
White vs. Samsung Electronics America, Inc., 971 F.2d 1395
- See dissenting opinion
by Judge Kozinski.
- The section in title
17 (copyrights) chapter 10 about the prohibition of certain infringement
- The Right Way to
Tax DAT by Richard Stallman.
- A Boston Globe Article
problematizing the notion of rewards.
- The official GNU/Free
Software Foundation www site.
- List of sites where
you can free your music (and those that support it).
- What is Copyleft?
- 9. http://www.ram.org/ramblings/philosophy/fmp.html
- The original version
of this document.