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Ottawa – March 1, 2004 – FLORA Community Consulting wishes to announce the “Make it legal: don't litigate, use creative licensing” campaign to encourage software authors, musicians, and other creators of works of the mind to use Free/Libre and Open Source Software (FLOSS) and Creative Commons licensing.

In March 2002, Roaring Penguin Software Inc. started a campaign called "Stay Legal - Use Free Software". The Canadian Alliance against Software Theft (CAAST), has been promoting a "truce" for businesses and organizations with improperly-licensed software. We believe the best way to manage improperly-licensed software is to switch to Free/Libre and Open Source Software (FLOSS - `free'' as in ``free speech,'' not as in ``free beer.'') where license maintenance is much simpler, and there are no per-desk, per-user or per-server obligations.

While this campaign has been a success and many software users have switched to FLOSS, the current litigation by the Canadian Recording Industry Association (CRIA) suggest it is time to extend this campaign to the creator community. Incumbent content and “software manufacturing” industrial associations in Canada such as CRIA and CAAST wish to place the blame for current problems on their own customers, and create considerable customer relations problems by suing their own customer base. FLORA Community Consulting wishes all creators to acknowledge that the source of their problems is not lawlessness of their customers, but their own failure to embrace new business models that are better suited to the Internet era and the expectations of new economy consumers.

In the software industry most of the largest to the smallest software companies have either fully or partially adopted FLOSS licenses and business models. The larger companies include IBM who is a large Linux promoter, Novell which recently bought SuSe Linux and Ximian, Sun Microsystems who sponsor OpenOffice.org as well as market and support derivative StarOffice, Apple Computer with MacOS-X which is built on top of their Darwin project, RedHat Linux, and more than are possible to count. This model is being looked at seriously and positively by most of the software industry, with only a few well-known exceptions such as Microsoft, Microsoft dependents, and Microsoft led industry associations.

We wish the success seen in the software marketplace for modern Internet-era business models to also bring success in other creator communities. While we strongly support the right of creators to protect their creative rights through copyright, including the right to sue those who infringe copyright, we do not believe that the current lawsuits launched by various intermediary industry associations will benefit creators. “The protection afforded in copyright is to the creator as water is to humans; too little and you dehydrate and die, too much and you drown and die. Survival requires understanding this delicate balance”, explains Russell McOrmond of FLORA Community Consulting. With this in mind the first step of this new campaign was to sponsor the Canadian File-sharing Legal Information Network (CanFLI), now hosted for free at FLORA.ca's ISP.

“CanFLI is a network of technology law students and organizations across Canada who wish to gather and disseminate information to help people who are sued by the CRIA”, explains Andy Kaplan-Myrth, M.A., law student and president of the Information Technology Law Society at the University of Ottawa. “We will provide FAQs and links to articles on the status of the law in Canada with respect to file-sharing, contact information for lawyers or organizations who may act for them, and perhaps information about how ISPs are responding”.

The next stage of this campaign will be to offer creators some of the same free consulting services as the “Stay Legal – Use Free Software” campaign did for software users. Rather than making suggestions of what software to use, we would investigate alternative business models that make use of the great opportunities of the Internet to the creators advantage, rather than choosing business models which make the Internet appear as a threat. As with the existing campaign, many creators would be offered a free day of consulting.

“The Internet, and digital audio technology in general, provide great promotional tools”, explains Neil Leyton, musician and manager of Toronto-based indie label Fading Ways Music. “Music fans can be inexpensive, often free, music promoters. We intend on putting the Internet to good use by no longer using the old copyright logo on our new releases, opting instead to display a Creative Commons license. These licenses are loosely based on the concept of Open Source which the software industry became familiar with years ago.”

The idea is simple: musicians would take the activities which the recording industry claim are a great threat and make them legal. Rather than sending your money to lawyers to sue your customers, you shift these activities in your business model from being considered a lost revenue stream to being a gained form of marketing and promotion. Rather than trying to make money off of the private non-commercial communications of your work you would leverage this new marketing to make more money off of other aspects of your business.

Neil Leyton further explains, “One common misconception about Creative Commons licenses is that they eliminate royalty payments to artists. With the CC license we have chosen this is not so. Radio play remains a commercial activity, as they are in the business of selling advertising. That station, under the CC license, is still required to pay royalties for playing a Creative Commons song. Similarly, mechanical licensing would still apply with the obvious exception of the Canadian Private Copying levy. TV usage, commercial film usage, and all other such uses remain unaffected by a CC license. CC complements and clarifies Copyright. It does not take it away.”

There are many types of Creative Commons licenses, some that allow commercial communications, and some that even allow derivative works such that the Internet can become a worldwide musical jam-session. While all creative commons licenses make non-commercial private distribution of works royalty-free, and thus makes P2P Internet distribution of those works legal, the creator has many options for other aspects of their business. The Creative Commons concept is that rather than being “all rights reserved”, you have “some rights reserved” under the control of the creator.

As the old industry associations like CRIA and CAAST continue to head to the courts to protect their old business models and special interests against the interests of creators and their audiences, it is hoped that these creators and audiences will make important choices to protect their own interests. Creators and citizens need to turn the Internet into a great opportunity to build better relationships between them, and keep everyone out of the courts. As the animations from Creative Commons suggests, “it can be that easy when you skip the intermediaries”.

For more information please contact: Russell McOrmond.
Full contact information can be found at http://www.flora.ca/#contact

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Important Links:

Stay Legal - Use Free Software
http://www.stay-legal.org/ (site no longer active)

Canadian File-sharing Legal Information Network

Creative Commons

Fading Ways Music mission statement

Perspective of a digital copyright reformer on past Heritage minister Sheila Copps, contrasting with Internet entrepreneur Bob Young, co-founder of RedHat, founder of Center for the Public Domain, and Lulu.com.

OK, P2P is "piracy." But so was the birth of Hollywood, radio, cable TV, and (yes) the music industry.
By Lawrence Lessig

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Canada License.