The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) recently sent a fundraising letter (click here to read) to its members calling on them to fight organizations like Creative Commons and other supporters of the “free culture movement,” claiming that they work to undermine copyright.
Creative Commons, which was founded by Professor Lawrence Lessig, offers authors, including artists and songwriters, a choice of licenses that they can append to their works. Under a Creative Commons license, a composer, for example, can choose to allow others to use her compositions in new songs, such as a remix, in exchange for credit, and/or compensation if the remix is released commercially. Under another type of CC license, a songwriter could waive his right to compensation, including public performance, entirely.
ASCAP’s letter states that organizations such as Creative Commons “are mobilizing to promote ‘Copyleft’ in order to undermine ‘Copyright,’” and that “these groups simply do not want to pay for the use of our music…[t]heir mission is to spread the word that our music should be free.”
Creative Commons responded to this letter in the news section of their website dated June 30, 2010 (click here to read). The Creative Commons response stated:
CC licenses are legal tools that creators can use to offer certain usage rights to the public, while reserving other rights. Without copyright, these tools don’t work. Artists and record labels that want to make their music available to the public for certain uses, like noncommercial sharing or remixing, should consider using CC licenses. Artists and labels that want to reserve all of their copyright rights should absolutely not use CC licenses.
It seems to me that ASCAP’s real concern is that if enough writers waive their right to receive royalties, this could impact their bottom line. ASCAP, together with sister performing rights organizations, BMI and SESAC, currently represent almost all commercially popular songs. If, for example, 10% of songs became subject to a gratis license under Creative Commons, this would decrease the value of a blanket license from the PROs including ASCAP, which could drive their license fees down.