New License for The Conversations Network

I recently discovered that Creative Commons has retired the Sampling License we’ve long used for podcasts at The Conversations Network. Apparently there weren’t enough people using the license for CC to support it. Too bad, since after a great deal of discussion and experimentation, it was a great license for us.

We now have a few options, and I’m looking for feedback. We can…

  • Continue to use the license, even without ongoing support from Creative Commons.
  • Use a different CC license.
  • Adopt NPR’s permission policy.
  • Roll our own.

Some considerations…

  • The reason we don’t use one of the more common CC licenses is that we don’t want people to simply copy and re-host our audio files:
    • We invest a great deal in our Detail Pages, and we want to encourage others to link to our site so that listeners get the full value of our biographies, resource lists, etc.
    • Like other podcasters, we want to keep track of the traffic so that we can justify our funding. (Non-profit underwriters in our case.)
  • We like sampling because it encourages excerpts, mashups and remixes.
  • We can’t always get permission from our content sources such as conferences and speakers to allow others to re-use entire programs, and we’d like to have a consistent licensing policy.

What do you think would be the best license for The Conversations Network?

Update: See our decision here.

7 thoughts on “New License for The Conversations Network

  1. The “continue to use” and “roll our own” options are pretty much the same. A quick skim of the NPR permissions policy suggests that it is more onerous than we want: you have to request prior permission in writing before mashing up.

    So I vote to stick with the CC Sampling License.

    But what about another option? Given that the license is already in use for hundreds (thousands?) of CN podcasts, do you think there is any chance that the CC could be convinced that it is worth continuing support for it? How do they determine that there is “insufficient demand” for it anyway?


  2. It’s my understand that the CC Sampling license wasn’t retired only due to non use, it was retired because it “did not expressly permit non-commercial verbatim sharing” (like noncommercial webcasting and file sharing) which is a “baseline” right under all CC licenses. So I think it’s unlikely we’d convince CC to support it in the future.

    The Sampling Plus 1.0 license is an alternative, but it does allow “verbatim” non-commercial reuses (like, but not limited to, non-commercial webcasting and file sharing). So, you’re right that the Sampling Plus 1.0 license allows full copies to be hosted elsewhere. But remember that all CC licenses require very specific attribution by way of a link back to the original author. Specifically: the Sampling Plus 1.0 license requires the re-user to keep intact all copyright notices for the Work and give the Original Author credit by supplying the author’s name, the work’s title, and the URI associated with the work.

    Is the concern that re-users will not link back properly, or that even with the links coming back to the Details Page, The Conversations Network will not capture all the traffic? Have you had instances where people have violated the old Sampling 1.0 license – e.g., verbatim copying with or without attribution? Perhaps a temporary experiment with the Sampling Plus 1.0 license is an option and we’ll vigorously enforce the attribution and noncommercial aspects of it.


  3. We used to have a problem when other sites re-hosted our MP3 files in aggregation with those of others. Some of these were high-profile endeavors. Even when they provided proper attribution, they didn’t report statistics to us. Their argument was that they were adding value by increasing the distribution of our content, reaching additional audiences, and driving traffic to us. We viewed it differently. To us, they were just using third-party content to build their own traffic without adding any value. In fact, without our detail pages, recommendation engine and other features on our web site, we felt they were actually reducing the value of our content.
    Although we’re non-profit, the documentable size of our audience directly affects our ability to raise money, and therefore scenarios such as the above are harmful. The same is true at NPR and commercial content sites. We’re happy to give the content away for free and (in our case) we’re happy for people to really add value by excerpting and remixing, but to merely republish adds no value.
    Furthermore, The Conversations Network has an important show-assembly system, which rebuilds every show in the archives every night. Specifically, we frequently change the promotional messages in our programs. For example, we might promote a time-sensitive event or campaign, or we might change the promotional message from one sponsor/underwriter to another on a month-to-month basis. If a third party copies an MP3 file and rehosts it, they’re getting a one-time snapshot, eliminating our ability to update/modify that copy of the file in the future. This violates our agreements with our sponsors and underwriters, some of whom rely on the fact that their messages will be removed from copies downloaded after a particular date.
    In the hard-copy world, there’s some value added by (and cost associated with) reproducing and distributing. If I publish a CD in the US but not in Europe, someone who makes the CD available there does indeed expand the audience. But in this digital/online world, you can retrieve our content from anywhere in the world for free. It’s hard to see how merely providing an alternative URL adds value.
    I’d be interested to hear from anyone who thinks that merely providing alternative URLs to our MP3 adds value to what we do.
    I should say that I’m a fan and supporter of Creative Commons, and I think they’ve done a great deal to help the online community (in particular) deal with licensing issues. I also recognize that there’s real political value by using some form of CC license. We even have some speakers who won’t permit us to publish their presentations unless reuse under CC is allowed. But this is an issue I’ve been dealing with for 4.5 years now, and the Sampling License has serves us well. I *only* bring it up because (a) CC has retired the license and requested it not be used for new content, and (b) I think it’s good to review the policy in such a constantly changing world.


  4. Perhaps the answer is for the Conversations Network to roll out its own license, based on the CC Sampling License but fixing the perceived flaw to expressly permit non-commercial verbatim sharing.


  5. Bernadette Clavier (Executive Producer of our Social Innovation Conversations channel) expressed concern about the commercial use of excerpts and that some big-name speakers might object.
    I should explain that one reason I like the permission for commercial excerpting is because of the media. Particularly when we used to publish speeches immediately after their presentation, we would sometimes get request from radio or TV to use short clips, to which we always said Yes for the promotional value. The CC Sampling License made that much simpler.


  6. “we would sometimes get requests from radio or TV to use short clips, to which we always said Yes for the promotional value. The CC Sampling License made that much simpler.”

    Agree that we need that feature. And it’s not just about radio and TV. Anyone might want to quote from a show under fair use. As Bruce notes, the NPR license doesn’t say that’s OK.


  7. Maybe it is worth trying to get in touch with someone at Creative Commons to discuss the issue. CC seems to value prominent or large-scale license users. For example, CC is currently in a fundraising campaign where they send letters from prominent users of CC licenses, like the founder of Wiki Travel and Cory Doctorow. They might be willing to work with you on the license issue.


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