As I’ve been blogging about recently, I’ve been struggling with the use of a Creative Commons license for IT Coversations content. The best example occured a week ago when someone — an honest person — told me that he planned to create his own site using the MP3 files from IT Conversations. He pointed out that so long as it was non-commercial, this was allowed by the CC license on our site. I wondered why he would do that. Was he going to include the photos, descriptions, listener ratings and the AAC/M4B files as well as the MP3s? No. He just wanted to present all the shows in a big list and host them on his server. No editorial opinions; no ratings or other information. Was he adding any value whatsoever? No. In fact, as he willingly admitted, the presentation would be such that the user experience would be poorer than on IT Conversations.
Ultimately I was able to convince him that it would be better for everyone if he built his site as a list of links (as he had planned), but to link back to our details pages for each show. That way he doesn’t have to bear the cost of content delivery, his visitors get all the benefits offered by him (whatever they might be) and by IT Conversations, and we can include the count of listeners in our reports to sponsors and underwriters, which in turn helps us keep this thing going.
But the problem remained that it was quite legitimate to replicate the entire IT Conversations web site, adding no value, and in fact diminishing the experience. This wasn’t about remixing or mashups. It wasn’t about excerpts or fair use. It was just about trying to take something of value and give at least a partial impression that it was someone else’s.
Thanks to some great advice from Denise Howell and Lawrence Lessig, I checked out the new Sampling License from Creative Commons, and that’s the license I’ll be using for the forseeable future. In addition to fair use, copying for convenience, etc., which Larry suggested was implicit in the fact that we offer the MP3 files for download to begin with, the Sampling License allows others “to sample, mash-up, or otherwise creatively transform this work for commercial or noncommercial purposes.” In other words, you’re free to excerpt the interviews and other recordings, combine them with your own content (or not) and create a new work that adds value to what we’ve already done. That’s what the remix culture is all about: not ripping off content, but being able to take what others have created and to make something new and different.
Whle even the CC Sampling License isn’t perfect, it’s quite clear that the benefits of publishing under a CC license far outweigh the disadvantages. And that, after all, is the whole idea behind Creative Commons: to make this simple for publishers and licensees alike.