The following is a guest post from the Artists' Legal Outreach site, found here.
Recently I have been receiving e-mails from my friends at Creative Commons. Apparently ASCAP in the US has written a fundraising letter to supporters that misstate the mission of Creative Commons. This is unfortunately all too common in an environment where copyright is presented as a war between factions (left and right, right and wrong).
Here is an excerpt from Lawrence Lessig's response:
Creative Commons is a nonprofit that provides copyright licenses pro bono to artists and creators so that they can offer their creative work with the freedom they intend it to carry. (Think not "All Rights Reserved" but "Some Rights Reserved.") Using these licenses, a musician might allow his music to be used for noncommercial purposes (by kids making a video, for example, or for sharing among friends), so long as attribution to the artist is kept. Or an academic might permit her work to be shared for whatever purpose, again, so long as attribution is maintained. Or a collaborative project such as a wiki might guarantee that the collective work of the thousands who have built the wiki remains free for everyone forever. Hundreds of millions of digital objects — from music to video to photographs to architectural designs to scientific journals to teachers lesson plans to books and to blogs — have been licensed in this way, and by an extraordinarily diverse range of creators or rights holders — including Nine Inch Nails, Beastie Boys, Youssou N'Dour, Curt Smith, David Byrne, Radiohead, Jonathan Coulton, Kristin Hersh, and Snoop Dogg, as well as Wikipedia and the White House.
These licenses are, obviously, copyright licenses. They depend upon a firm and reliable system of copyright for them to work. Thus CC could have no interest in "undermining" the very system the licenses depend upon — copyright. Indeed, to the contrary, CC only aims to strengthen the objectives of copyright, by giving the creators a simpler way to exercise their rights.
These licenses are also (and also obviously) voluntary. CC has never argued that anyone should waive any of their rights. (I've been less tolerant towards academics, but I have never said that any artist is morally obligated to waive any right granted to her by copyright.)
And finally, these licenses reveal no objective to make "music free." Nine Inch Nails, for example, have earned record sales from songs licensed under Creative Commons licenses.
Instead, the only thing Creative Commons wants to make free is artists — free to choose how best to license their creative work. This is one value we firmly believe in — that copyright was meant for authors, and that authors should have the control over their copyright.
Thank you. You can read the full article here.