I recently attended Yale’s Rebellious Lawyering Conference and had the pleasure of listening to a panel called “reclaiming culture.” It was one of many amazing panels and events that I saw, but I think it is particularly interesting for artists, musicians, and creative persons.

On the panel was Glenn Otis Brown – founder of http://www.CreativeCommons.org , Nelson Pavlosky – Co-Founder of http://www.FreeCulture.Org, and Siva Vaidhyanathan – New York University professor and author on free culture.

I know that some of you may be familiar with the free culture movement, but I’d like to draw your attention to Creative Commons Licenses.  CC Licenses allow an artist to waive specific rights that are automatically created whenever she creates something tangible (a recorded piece of music, a sculpture, a scientific breakthrough, etc.).  Modern law creates a copyright with very strict rules as soon as the thing is created.  It is still up to you, whether or not you use the copyright to bring a suit against whoever is using your “intellectual property.” You may choose to not bring a suit, but this method doesn’t assure a potential user that you will not sue.  Without knowing whether using someone else’s work will result in a lawsuit, many potential creators are discouraged form using other’s work at all.  However, CC Licenses are typically placed on a website for all to see, and can be linked from a website that contains the licensed work.

In music sharing, music corporations use copyrights to shut down the likes of Napster, sue teenagers, and team up with Pepsi to sell mp3s.  Diebold tried to use copyright law to sue websites that posted internal memos about the inadequacy of their electronic voting machines.  Even though they lost in court, it is an extreme example of how far copyright law has gone into restricting free speech. 

To learn more about how trends in copyright law are threatening free speech, culture, expression, and creativity visit freeculture.org.

To those musicians, writers, photographers, inventors, thinkers, etc., consider using creative common licenses for your work.  It is free and easy and allows you to control what rights you want to keep and what rights you wish to waive.  Creative Commons licenses give those who wish to use your work the peace of mind of knowing exactly what you will allow to be done with it, without losing those rights you want to hold on to.  For example you can allow anyone to freely copy your music, but not allow a television show to use your songs without consent. 

I love this idea because it puts the law into the hands of the creator; and allow others to use that work and know that what they are doing is legal and ethical.  It is a true form of DIY law.  To obtain CC Licenses on your work go to creativecommons.org