EFF, Public Knowledge And Creative Commons All Respond (Politely) To ASCAP’s Misguided Attack

Following last week’s bizarre decision by ASCAP to attack Creative Commons, Public Knowledge and EFF as part of its fundraising campaign, all three organizations have now responded, and done so with a bit of wonderment at why they were painted in such a misleading light.

  • Creative Commons responded in an interview with Zeropaid, noting how misguided and flat-out wrong it was for ASCAP to suggest that Creative Commons somehow undermines artists’ rights, when it’s always done exactly the opposite:

    “It’s very sad that ASCAP is falsely claiming that Creative Commons works to undermine copyright” Steuer told ZeroPaid. He explained, “Creative Commons licenses are copyright licenses — plain and simple, without copyright, these tools don’t even work. CC licenses are legal tools that creators can use to offer certain usage rights to the public, while reserving other rights. 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 does make sense because Creative Commons is voluntary. The creator can choose whether or not to use Creative Commons or not.

    “Many tens of thousands of musicians, including acts like Nine Inch Nails, the Beastie Boys, David Byrne, Radiohead, and Snoop Dogg, have used Creative Commons licenses to share with the public. These musicians aren’t looking to stop making money from their music. In fact,” Steuer added, “many of the artists who use CC licenses are also members of collecting societies, including ASCAP. Incidentally, that’s how we first heard about this email campaign — many musicians that support Creative Commons received the email and forwarded it to us. Some of them even included a donation to Creative Commons.”

  • The EFF responded in an interview with CreateDigitalMusic.com, where it noted, amusingly, that the EFF’s long-standing proposal on how to “fix” copyright law, actually is to set up an ASCAP-like system for digital music (this is something that I’ve long disagree with EFF about, by the way). So it seems pretty silly to claim that EFF is somehow trying to undermine ASCAP. It just takes issue when ASCAP takes a ridiculous stance like claiming that ringtones require a separate “public performance” license — a position that is clearly at odds with the law.

    “They imply in that letter that the EFF don’t want artists to get paid for their work,” says Rebecca Jeschke, EFF spokesperson. “For years, we’ve had a proposal for Voluntary Collective Licensing,” she says, a scheme by which users of file sharing services could contribute to funds for artists. She says the EFF has been working on the issue since 2003. “We’re interested in making sure that there’s a balance, that copyright respects the rights of the creators but also innovators and speakers, and that [the doctrine of] fair use rights [a provision of US Copyright Law] are respected.”

  • Finally, Public Knowledge responded on its own website, in a response that is similar to the EFF’s, pointing out that it clearly supports getting artists’ paid, has no interest in undermining such rights, and has advocated models similar to ASCAP’s:

    Of course, anybody who has spent more than 5 minutes on our website or talking to our staff knows that these things are not true – Public Knowledge advocates for balanced copyright and an open Internet that empowers creators and the public.  What we oppose are overreaching policies proposed by large corporate copyright holders that punish lawful users of technology and copyrighted works.  We have taken artist-centric positions on a number of critical copyright issues which have put us at odds with some of our copyright reform colleagues.  For example, PK has supported a level-playing field in the payment of performance royalties and called for (pdf) copyright holders to sue large scale peer-to-peer infringers directly, as opposed to holding innovators liable for the infringement of others.  We have also advocated for changes to the law that would make it easier for online music services to license content from music publishers, leading to greater legal use of music and greater compensation for artists.  Finally, and oddly enough, we have emphasized the central role that performance rights organizations like ASCAP could play in a digital world and have praised them for their ability to keep accurate records of who owns what copyright.  So frankly, we’re more puzzled by this attack than anything.

So, basically none of these organizations do anything like what ASCAP claimed. It’s too bad that ASCAP still seems to be standing by its backwards-looking position.

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