copyleft copyright creativecommons internet

going commercial

A while ago there was this product that came out on the Belgian market that allowed shopkeepers, barbers and anyone who was having a business to bypass the Belgian version of RIAA called SABAM by offering royalty free music in a box. You just had to hook up the little box to an audio system and it would play hours of music that SABAM could not claim any royalty fees for.

Since that little device isn’t cheap I figured the home-made way would be cheaper. You could use an old PC or a laptop and hook that up to your audio system. After all there’s tons of free music out there on and other sites right? Yes there is. But when I started digging around for some examples it turned out that even though that music is licensed under a Creative Commons license, most of it is restricted from commercial use.

The thing is that this “no commercial use” clause seems to make perfect sense when you publish something online at first. You don’t want someone use your music or pictures just like that and get filthy rich off it, without effort? But the thing is that this clause also prevents all sorts of indirect commercial use that’s not meant to make money off the sweat of your back. Someone might want to use that awesome photo in a business presentation. No can do. Someone might want to play your music in his bar. Nope, can’t do that either. That person might even be a DJ playing at a paid gig. In theory he can’t play any tunes licensed under the non-commercial clause, but you might want that promotion right? Non-commercial turns out to be a bit of a grey area it seems, and it’s clear that the Creative Commons lads are struggling with it as well.

So the question is: what’s the risk of putting your stuff out there under a Creative Commons license that does allow commercial use? Are you going to be ripped off? Maybe. But people are ripping off copyrighted material every day. So it doesn’t matter what kind of license you slap on it? If someone wants to violate it, they will, no matter what. Publishing material under a more liberal license just opens more possibilities for people to use it for all the right reasons. Isn’t that what we are aiming for in the first place? Look at the Open Source movement as an example. There’s no clause in the popular licenses that prevents commercial use. In fact, that’s one of the reasons that Open Source Software is so mature and widely used this day.
I know that software and finished products like music, photo’s, video’s and text are not the same. Software is never really a finished product as it continuously evolves, but the idea is the same.

Paniq does it for all his music for example. He does it for the above mentioned reasons and services like Jamendo sell his music to shopkeepers, barbers and bartenders so they can play this royalty free music without having to pay fees to a silly copyright organisation like SABAM. They pay the artist a percentage of the sales afterwards, so it’s good karma all around.
So I thought I’d go commercial too where I can. My Flickr pictures can now be used commercially, and these awesome wallpapers (if I may say so myself) as well.

Just think about it, the next time you pick a cc-license.

Photo by Andrew*, cc-licensed.

2 replies on “going commercial”

Your business is similar to what I’m talking about but not quite the same. By using an open license such as the Creative Commons license the artists puts out his music and basically let things run it’s course.

Sites like Jamendo pick up from there and sell the music and pay the artists a fee for it, but in a way they don’t even have to do that. It’s more like GPL open source. You’re free to use it and charge for it, however you like.
Nobody is getting an exclusive royalty-free license, which I understand is the fact in your case.
It’s more protective, but it’s up to the artist to decide how he wants to license it after all.

Hey N3wjack, interesting thoughts. Artists can sell their music safely by going to market via a royalty free music agent such as me at We licence music to businesses for the specific use of background listening in business environments. We offer music as downloads and also offer music licensed on a monthly basis with new music each month to a range of businesses.

It works well for businesses as they only have to pay only for music they need whilst the artists get half the earnings making it fair for them aswell. This market tends to me something mosts artists dont makeany money from even if they have signed their music up to a performing rights society. Moreso, many artists have a high profile collection of music for use in tv and adverts which earns them public royalties and also a parallel music collection that they submit to me for use royalty free for this purpose.

Works for everyone :-)


Guy Lewis

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