Is Uncompensated Commercial Use Of An Artist's Content Really That Bad?

from the free-promotion dept

We've discussed a few times how the whole distinction between "commercial use" and "non-commercial use" can be somewhat arbitrary. Even though many Creative Commons supporters insist that a "non-commercial" license is the way to go, there are some good arguments as to why such a limitation isn't a good idea either.

Long-time Techdirt reader SteelWolf sent in a blog post he recently did on the subject, where he makes the argument that uncompensated commercial use of an artist's work isn't something to worry about. The idea that some company will come along and "profit" from your work without giving you a cent is misguided, because there are all sorts of opportunities for you to take advantage of such a use directly yourself:
A budding musical artist writes and records a song, putting it into the Public Domain/copyleft on his website for his fans to share and enjoy how they wish. Somebody from a major television network finds the song and use it in a new show without even giving credit. The show goes on to become a hit, making the network millions while the musician remains poor. How should he respond?

First of all one has to understand that it is highly unlikely that the show was successful solely because of the inclusion of the song. Commercial success does not suddenly mean money is owed. While it may have been nice to get free money (royalties and the like) from repeated airings of the show, it is not that but the lack of proper attribution that is the real cause for frustration.

Assuming the network will never deign to correct its mistake, I think one of the most important things to do is use the internet connect the song and show back to the artist. If the song really brought that many people to the show, they are likely to start searching for it online. Something like a post on the artist's website will show up clearly in search results, and it gives the artist an opportunity to direct new visitors to free downloads of the song, concert dates, and his other reasons to buy (perhaps tweaked to appeal to fans of the show). It's also a good idea to have a way for people to send donations.

Granted, these things aren't going to make you rich, but then neither are royalties. What it does do is save the artist tons of money in legal costs trying to fight the network, and help build his name as somebody who creates quality music and expand his fanbase -- all despite the network's "oversight" in crediting the person behind the work.
On top of that, we've seen over and over again, that when a company makes use of someone else's work for such uses without properly crediting the artist, it usually doesn't take much for that word to spread, and get more attention drawn to the artist. The artist can put up a blog post, noting that the TV show didn't credit him or her, and that even helps the story spread as well. It's yet another case where social mores work better than not just copyright, but non-commercial Creative Commons license as well.

And, with that, we'll leave the last word to Nina Paley:
non-commercial

Filed Under: commercial use, noncommercial use


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  1. icon
    R. Miles (profile), 4 Oct 2010 @ 3:43am

    Re:

    and that was the acknowledgment that America couldn't compete in manufacturing
    It's true because of one thing: our salaries. We have one of the highest salaries per capita than anywhere else on the planet. There's no way in hell our salaries and our ability to produce can compete unless something gives.

    The entire point of capitalism is to expand a business, but if competition can blow out the bottom line, this states the markup was based on an artificial demand, not a reasonable cost of operation.

    Sound familiar? Remember the TV strike a few years ago in which people "demanded" their "fair share" of "royalties" from "TV online"?

    This attitude is embedded in damn near every American business. I made it, so you will pay for it.

    I've said it once before: There's no goddamn reason why a loaf of bread has to cost more than a $1 in a country where the wheat harvest can feed the planet.

    It's not greed, unfortunately. It's just bad business and trying to fix it now will be... problematic.

    Especially when those businesses rely on "IP" to "survive", and now must use copyright and patents to pay their employees for the very same fear of competition which drove out America's production ability.

    Why do you think America's trying to get the world to adhere to draconian copyright protection?

    It's the only thing we've got left as a nation. No one disputes our ability to make movies and music.

    I just feel sorry for anyone who can't use Photoshop in the upcoming decade. They'll be unemployed.
    /sarcasm

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