Free Art License 1.3

Most of my works (music, writing, photographs, illustrations, graphic design) are covered by the Free Art License 1.3. which allows others to freely share and build upon them.  The following is a brief explanation of the rules for using and sharing my works covered under this license.

I am a believer in the Free Culture movement, which encourages the sharing of information, both creative and technical (visual art, literature, music, educational materials, scientific information, etc), with the assumption that humans can do great work when empowered to collaborate.  I am inspired by the Free Software movement, which has produced the world’s best, most useful software by specifying a simple rule: all the software is freely available to be used and modified, as long as all modifications and additions are also freely available (also called the “share-alike” concept).  The linux kernel, for example, estimated to be worth over 1.4 billion dollars and part of the backbone of the internet, is created by a loosely-bound group of contributors from around the world, many of whom do not natively speak each other’s language and have never met.  The kernel is covered by a license called the GPL which ensures that it remains free to be shared and built upon.  On Ensemble’s website is powered by the linux kernel; I benefit from the sharing and collaboration of others.

My work, the creation and performance of music, is somewhat less tangible than software.  But I believe that music is also valuable to society, and that it is an essential part of humanity and of our progress.  It is remarkable to me that every culture on earth ever known, has music, has singing, and has drums.  I believe that we benefit from sharing music, learning from it, and building on it.  I hope that my music, my writings, and my work in general are in some way a small contribution to the progress of humanity.  For this reason, I release all my creations under the Free Art License 1.3.  In short, my work is too valuable to me not to share.

The Free Art License 1.3 is a reaction to standard copyright law in the United States today, which severely limits sharing and collaboration.  Copyright gives the creator exclusive rights to distribute a work, and the power to limit others from sharing, re-using, or modifying the work.  The Free Art License, and other “copyleft” licenses, are a way for copyright holders to explicitly allow some forms of sharing and re-use.

The Free Art License 1.3 is fairly easy to read and understand, but contains a bit of “legalese”.  Here is how it works in plain English.

For any of my works released with the Free Art License:

1) You are free to copy the work

2) You can distribute the work (share it)

3) You can perform the work publicly (perform my music, for example)

4) You are free modify the work and distribute your new version

5) You can incorporate the work into a larger work of your own

6) You can make money based on the work

You can do all these things automatically, without asking permission, and without paying me for the privilege.

In order to take advantage of these freedoms, however, you must satisfy a few requirements.

1) When you share the work, or a modification of it, you must include the Free Art License 1.3 or a clear link to the license with the work.  When my works are shared, I want the recipient to know that they too are free to share with others.  Most of my works have the license included, but sometimes when copies are made (a song burned to CD, for example) the license or link must be explicity added.

2) If you modify the work, your new version must also be licensed under the Free Art License 1.3.  This is the “share-alike” concept.  You are free to change and make additions to my work, as long as the new work is also free for everyone to share and use.  In this way, the pool of freely available copyleft works grows, as we all make small contributions to each others works, and everything remains in the pool.

3) If you distribute modified versions, you must make it clear that the new version is a modification and specify where the original can be accessed.  This empowers you to make dramatic changes to the work without fear of diminishing the pool.  If you don’t like the last half of my song, delete it and share that version, but tell others where they can hear, re-use, and modify the original version.

Actual sharing scenarios

Printed works – If you want to give someone a printed copy of my taiko educational materials or one of my essays, for example, you needn’t do anything special except make sure that the copyright page remains included.  I have already included the Free Art License 1.3 link information in the materials.

Recordings – If you want to share a recording that I have made (Gengakki, Turns, 30 Days audio, etc), please include: author’s name (“Kristofer Bergstrom and Jon Bailey” in the case of Turns), “”, and “Free Art License 1.3”.

Performing work – If you want to perform one of my pieces, please mention in the program or announcement: author’s name, “”, and “Free Art License 1.3”


Q – Is this the same as “public domain”?

A – No.  Public domain works essentially have no copyright.  Someone can modify a public domain work and then not allow others to share or re-use their new version.  With copyleft licenses like the Free Art License 1.3, the creator still owns the copyright to the work and is granting sharing and re-use rights as long as the requirements in the license are met.  Since the works remain free to be shared and re-used, I believe copyleft is a better option than public domain.

Q – Aren’t you worried that people will take advantage of you?

A – No.  I feel like the share-alike requirement levels the playing ground and protects me. I don’t like alcohol, but even if Budweiser wanted to use part of my song in their commercial, I’d let them, as long as they played by the share-alike rules.  In order to use my work, their commercial must be released under the Free Art License 1.3 too.  This would enable others to freely use and modify their work (including competitors).  Since Budweiser wants more control than this, they generally won’t use the work.  Copyleft is for community; people who want power over others won’t choose my works.

Q – How will you make money?

A – I am surviving by charging for those things I offer which cannot be easily copied: seats in a theater, physical CDs, my time.  On Ensemble’s performances have a limited number of seats, what economists call a “rivalrous good”.  It makes sense to charge for tickets to On Ensemble’s concerts; there’s no practical way to give them away for free.  On Ensemble sells physical CDs, and we recoup the cost of the production of each CD from its sale.  I teach lessons and workshops and charge for my time.  See, in the digital world, one copy costs the same as a million copies, so I am trying to find ways to fund just the first copy.  If I can find money to cover the recording of a new piece, I can share the finished product.  I spent about 100 hours composing Err, and another 200 or so practicing it.  In this case, money from performance and teaching was able to buy me time to compose and practice the piece (as well as generally keeping my overhead low).

Other questions?  Please ask in comments below!

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9 Responses to “Free Art License 1.3”

  1. Matt says:

    Wow! Great article. I think you articulated what you’re doing very well. Thanks for sharing :)

  2. n0dl says:

    Great article!
    A lot of my work is published under the Creative Commons which seemed alright at first, until I received a flood of emails asking whether or not it was ok to make a remix/cover a song of mine or use it in their own personal project (video,presentation,radio stream etc.) I will definitely look into licensing my own music under it since the guidelines are simple enough. Is it ok if I share this article with a music community I am actively involved in?

  3. kris says:

    Hey amigo! Yes of course!

    I also started out using Creative Commons. At the time, CC had the “Share-Alike” (SA) license which seemed very similar to the GPL. They did away with it, now offering only the Share-Alike Attribution (SA-A) license, on the basis that not many people were using the SA license. After reading more, the SA-A license actually looks really good to me. But since *all* of the other licenses offered by Creative Commons are non-free in one way or another, I have a hard time getting excited about Creative Commons anymore. Everyone uses the Non-Commercial licenses, which to me, are not useful for the Free Culture movement.

  4. Kristofer,
    Great article. Very clear, concise, and informative. Your commitment to the future of your music and building our community is very important. I applaud you!

    I believe that this all comes back to us. We will never know until we deliver our goods to the world and wait for the collaboration to begin. This is really outstanding!
    Jon B.

  5. LeX says:

    Thanks for sharing the info, it’s good to see it get more coverage.

    I actually prefer the free art license over CC-BY-SA, but that’s my preference ;)

  6. Gregg says:

    Can somebody tell me if there is any substantive difference between the Free Art License and the Creative Commons BY-SA License?

  7. kris says:

    As far as I can tell by reading them, they grant essentially the same freedoms and require the same responsibilities of users, though the CC BY-SA license spells out the requirements more specifically and in more traditional legalese than the Free Art License. (I’m not sure if the more technical sound of the CC license is to its benefit or detriment.) The Free Art License requires that derivative works be distributed “under the same license or any compatible license,” whereas CC BY-SA specifies distribution “under the terms of this License, a later version of this License with the same License Elements as this License, or a Creative Commons iCommons license that contains the same License Elements as this License (e.g. Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Japan)”. So the Free Art License is a little more generous in this regard, though I don’t know if any other licenses are actually compatible. I assume the CC BY-SA license is incompatible due to the restriction of derivative works to fall under only CC licenses.

    Thinking through all this more, even though the practical requirements are the same, I favor the way the Free Art License explains its requirements in terms of keeping the work free (copyright and license must remain with the work so that others know the work is free), whereas the CC license implies that “attribution” is the end goal. I strongly believe that attribution happens naturally when good work is done, and don’t want to put too fine a point on demanding it.

  8. Nicki Bergstrom Noel says:

    Love to read about this idea! It is such an optimistic view of creation rather than what I picture as the wrinkled, miserly, huddled-protectively-over-some-pile-of-music stance the commercial music industry takes. It suggests the potential in everyone.

    I really want to understand this concept and how it works in practice, but I’m a little confused about the comment that the linux kernel is worth 1.4 billion dollars. Can you say more about how something that was created by volunteers and exists without purchase or investment is given a dollar value? Maybe I don’t understand what you mean. Also, I thought your Budweiser example was a really powerful one. Maybe I’m working from the old paradigm, but wouldn’t it bother you a little if a company, or person, or government, or any organization you found offensive appropriated your work? If the KKK used an On song in a training video (I know this is a stretch) wouldn’t you feel violated?

    Also, on a sisterly note, I heard resonances with “Perpetuating Humanity’s Gifts” in a few sentences. Good work, Meat.

  9. kris says:

    Niquita! Thanks for the nice comment and the interesting questions!

    The dollar amount for the linux kernel was calculated by the Linux Foundation as the cost of developing the kernel from scratch. The Foundation used something called the Constructive Cost Model (COCOMO) to estimate the value of software from the number of lines of code (30 million!), the average salary of software developers, and other unstated factors. It also placed a dollar value on a full distribution of gnu/linux (the Fedora distribution, including the linux kernel plus Fedora’s assembled set of Free Software applications) and estimates that rewriting the 204 million lines of code that are included in Fedora 9 would require 60,000 person-years of development time (over $10 billion). Insanity.

    The appropriation issue is really interesting and one of my favorite things to think about. The KKK using an On song in a training video would certainly be a bummer. :) Imagine a KKK PR person took the words out of “Waiting” and replaced them with her own lyrics — something I’m explicitly saying she can do, as long as she shares her new version and new lyrics. She then uses this in a for-sale DVD called “Ensemble Taiko Hails the Confederacy!”. Ug. But even in a case like this, there are four reasons I’m okay with it.

    1) In abiding by my rules, the KKK is undermining its own racism. Their music *must* be shared equally and they cannot deny freedom to any user. They must allow anyone to share and modify their DVD. That’s a poignant stab at their philosophy, and one that standard music ownership does not enable. The KKK is all about ownership — “This is our country, not yours.” The Free Art License is all about equality.

    2) One of the main fears is association — “Maybe people will think I am a member of the KKK.” But even in this extreme example, I’m not too afraid of this. The link to my original music must be included with the DVD, and in this way, the KKK is giving me a voice directly to those who buy and share the DVD. As I see it, I have an opportunity to share my distaste of the KKK philosophy, one that I wouldn’t otherwise have. I can even imagine getting on the news and having quite a platform for explaining why I disagree with the KKK and am excited about Free Culture.

    3) For every KKK PR person, there are a dozen others doing honest, good work.

    4) Appropriation prevails in proprietary music. Almost every successful band has their music used in commercials for stuff I dislike. Music is an integral part of peddling things that are bad for us as individuals and bad for our society. I think this is a symptom of our basic illness as an ownership society. Trapped in the mindset of strict ownership, the proprietary music scene encourages musicians to give up control of their works in exchange for exposure and financial reward, and gives full control to the new ownership, with no respect for the roots of the music or the intentions of its creators. For musicians, I don’t think that saying, “Well, *we* just won’t let bad companies use our music…” is a viable option. Bands I love, made up of musicians I respect, have their music used in hair-care commercials convincing women they are not beautiful unless they worry about silkiness and shine. It’s like there’s no way out of it — write a great, popular song and it *will* be in a commercial. Well, enough! Free music from this madness!

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