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Posted by Robert
Rap News Network
11/29/2004 8:18:42 AM

Tags and topics realted to this article include Beastie Boys, Chuck D and Public Enemy.

Not long ago Apple Computer encouraged us all to "Rip. Mix. Burn."

Now rappers the Beastie Boys, David Byrne and other artists have issued "The Wired CD," a compilation of new music that invites listeners to "Rip. Sample. Mash. Share." That's the kind of musical experimentation that could get you slapped with a lawsuit.

But have no fear of hearing the heavy tread of entertainment attorneys at your door. The CD, distributed with the November issue of Wired magazine, is the first to be issued under a new type of license. Called the Creative Commons, it is the brainchild of Stanford Law School professor Lawrence Lessig.

The artists on the disc have agreed to give music lovers the freedom to transfer the songs to their computers, distribute them over Internet file-swapping networks like Kazaa, and even sample the rhythms and hooks to create their own compositions. The only thing you can't do is use them in commercials or, for a handful of instances, in a song you plan to release.

It's the boldest experiment yet in trying to catalyze support for copyrights compatible with the digital reality of the 21st century.

"The Wired CD" is attracting notice, in part, because the magazine won support from some of the best-known names in contemporary music.

Former Talking Heads lead singer Byrne, who contributed a track called "My Fair Lady" to the disc, said Internet file-sharing networks are akin to cultural libraries, repositories for the world's music.

"When you take away that stuff and say, 'No, we own this. You can't have it unless you're ready to pay for it' ... it basically cuts the whole culture off at the knees," said Byrne in an interview.

Said former Public Enemy bass player Brian Hardgroove: "We are looking at opening up floodgates. We're talking about letting people get creative and getting lawyers out of the way from slowing things down." Hardgroove, co-founder of Fine Arts Militia, collaborated with Chuck D on a song for "The Wired CD."

Listeners have been quick to embrace their new license, posting songs from "The Wired CD" on file-swapping networks like LimeWire.

San Francisco-based Wired is using its influence and distribution network to advance Creative Commons beyond the arcane world of intellectual property rights and into the mainstream. About 750,000 copies of the CD headed to newsstands and mailboxes across the country.

“The magazine has always been about putting big ideas out in the public sphere, trying to reflect the forefront of where the digital world and digital industries are going," said Wired articles editor Thomas Goetz, who spent a year assembling "The Wired CD."

Goetz approached nearly 50 artists and their managers directly with the idea for publishing music under a Creative Commons license. He was asking a lot. Wired wanted an exclusive, original song to ensure a successful CD worthy of other musical concept albums, such as Radiohead's "OK Computer." And he wanted the artists, their managers and their labels to agree to rules that would allow their song to be freely distributed and potentially sampled in a composition they might not like.

Some artists, notably Byrne and former Replacements singer/songwriter Paul Westerberg, embraced the concept immediately. Others, including the musically experimental Moby, declined. No hard feelings, said Goetz.

"These people make their livelihood through their music. They had to want to sacrifice that," said Goetz. "In order to take part, there was a leap of faith we were asking people to take."

Copyright issues

The Creative Commons disc comes at a time when the music industry has attempted to use copyright as a cudgel to beat down unlicensed Internet file swapping.

The industry spent millions of dollars combating Napster and its technological progeny, Grokster, Morpheus and Kazaa. And when that didn't work, the Recording Industry Association of America turned to lobbying Co

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