This discussion on CC Mixter illustrates some common confusion about CC licenses, in this case CC-BY. The first commenter asks whether it is considered legal or ethical to take songs that have been licensed as CC-BY and compile them into an album to sell. These three commenters appear to agree that this is legal. The first commenter is not convinced that this is ethical. The second commenter suggests that while this might be legal, it would make a lot of artists mad as they likely did not understand the implications when licensing their work CC-BY. I bring up this piece of anecdotal evidence as this fits my own experience that people using CC-BY licenses do not necessarily understand the implications of doing this. I would also like to argue that the name "Creative Commons" is somewhat misleading as the cultural notion of a commons is more akin to a common resource or set of resources that is shared by a community in an equitable way, while the CC licenses facilitate exploitive as well as community use.
CC Mixter discussion: from http://ccmixter.org/thread/2659
So I was having a discussion with someone regarding the CC licensing
model and we came up with a situation which seems to be a bit of an
ethical dilemma and I wanted to get the opinions of some musicians that
create CC content.
So, this is specifically regarding CC-BY licensed work. The situation we
were considering is someone compiling a bunch of CC-BY songs into a
single album (a mix CD I guess you’d say) and selling that album
(assuming they attribute the original artists as required by the license
Now, based on the CC-BY license I am fairly certain that this is totally
legal as there are no restrictions on what you can do with the music.
The question is, is this ethical?
Comment by CC Mixter discussion participants
Commenter 1: "It is 100% ethical, because that is precisely what the license is for.
I strongly believe many people would be upset about it; but in most
cases that would be because they didn’t understand the full implications
of licensing their music as CC-BY in the first place (things like
licenses being non revocable, for instance)"
Commenter 2: "Anytime I license something CC-BY, I assume that it will be used for
profit by someone else. Sometimes I seek material that is CC-BY so I
can add to it and possibly put it on an album… for personal profit".
This post is part of the Open Access and Creative Commons critique series detailing my work-in-progress which is designed to explain important differences between open access per se and Creative Commons licenses which provide useful tools for open access but cannot be equated with open access.