Creative Commons’ Branding Confusion

About a year and a half ago I released my film Sita Sings the Blues under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license. That license allows truly free distribution, including commercial use, as long as the free license remains in place. But my experience is that most people see the words "Creative Commons" and simply assume the license is Non-Commercial -- because the majority of Creative Commons licenses they've seen elsewhere have been Non-Commercial.

This is a real problem. Some artists have re-released Sita remixes under Creative Commons Non-Commercial licenses. Many bloggers and journalists assume the non-commercial restrictions, even when the license is correctly named:

H.O.P.E. for Free Culture

On July 16th I gave at talk at H.O.P.E. (Hackers On Planet Earth) called "Sita Sings the Blues: a Free Culture Success Story." 9 Minutes of excerpts are below, in which I discuss why I insisted on authentic songs, what is and is not property, how software is culture, the difference between Share Alike (copyleft) and other Creative Commons licenses, why I paid to legally license the old songs, how noncommercial copyright infringement is still illegal, legal costs, benefits of audience sharing & decentralized distribution, the Sita Sings the Blues Merchandise Empire (, open-licensed merch, audience goodwill, how fans support artists, rivalrous vs. non-rivalrous goods, the Creator Endorsed Mark, migrating Flash files to open formats, gift income, commerce without monopolies, why I encourage legal sharing, and more.

For those with longer attention spans, you can watch the entire unedited hour-long talk on vimeo. It includes even more topics like Minute Memes, cultural lineages, combining vs. originating, many Ramayanas, our impoverished Public Domain, understanding Free Culture, Content vs. Containers, and a more detailed income breakdown of the Sita Free Distribution Project.

cross-posted from

Best Debate Evah: Cory Doctorow and Nina Paley discuss licensing and freedom.

Wow.  You almost never see a debate as good as the one below when it comes to copyright (indeed, when it comes to any topic).  Most  discussions about copyright flounder in the very definitions of terms: "Unauthorized copying is theft!"  "No it's not!"  "But they're stealing the money they never paid me!"  "If they didn't agree to pay it to you, how can they steal it from you?".  And so on.

That's why it's such a pleasure to see a debate about non-commercial restrictions in licensing where both sides have clearly thought deeply about the issues and are careful to stay intellectually honest even while disagreeing.  Recently, author Cory Doctorow and animation artist Nina Paley conducted a long email exchange about the Creative Commons "noncommercial" licenses versus the Creator Endorsed Mark.  Afterwards, Nina edited down their discussion and posted it, with Cory's permission.  Both the discussion and the readers' comments afterwards are well worth a look.  I wish all discussions could be like theirs.


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