Thursday, January 01, 2004

The Globe and Mail: "Magnatune, a small record label in Berkeley, Calif., thinks it has found the answer. It's letting everyone steal its music.

The label, which offers a variety of genres from chamber music to techno, lets Internet users preview every song from every album from every artist it offers, on its website (http://www.magatune.com). Many of the acts are relatively obscure, but some, particularly a few classical musicians, are fairly well known.

If you decide to download a permanent copy of an album, you can then name your price, anything from $5 (U.S.) to $18. (The label suggests $8.) And if you claim you would like to use any song for a non-commercial purpose, you can download it free.

It's a notion that seems to go against everything the music industry holds dear. Free music, no set prices, utter chaos -- the antithesis of how the business has traditionally been structured.

Granted, the record industry has been trying of late to embrace the new, the latest evidence being reports of tie-ins with big-name brands such as Pepsi and Miller beer to offer free music downloads in the new year as a part of larger advertising campaigns.

But Magnatune has taken a much bigger step -- and is one example of a growing movement among arts organizations, civil libertarians and artists who are rethinking the whole notion of access to creative works and copyright laws. Some, like Magnatune, believe they can profit if their artists make their works more readily available, in some cases for no charge; or if they even relinquish at least some rights to their works.

A new kind of copyright licence developed by Creative Commons, a group started by a collective of prominent copyright and cyberlaw experts, and now housed at the law school of California's Stanford University, allows the owners of works of art to, say, keep certain copyrights while allowing someone to use an artist's photos as part of another artist's work; or to take samples from certain records and use them in another recording; or to use a portion of a film for some other kind of derivative work."
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