R.E.M., by Dunechaser. And Lego.

There are some serious, high-profile indications that big artists are beginning to embrace alternative licensing for their content, whether it’s pay-what-you-wish distribution, “please remix this for us” marketing campaigns, or genuinely open content. Whether that’s just a brief fad or the sign of things to come, it’s too early to say. But R.E.M. have at least uploaded a full eleven videos, nicely encoded in MPEG4, under an open source license:

Supernatural Serious Album Page, with vids

R.E.M. Releases New Videos Under Open Source License [ReadWriteWeb, via vade]

R.E.M. aside, I wonder: will at least some VJs embrace open content, perhaps even exclusively?

Now, this isn’t without caveats:

First, curiously this isn’t a Creative Commons license, as ReadWriteWeb points out. Maybe R.E.M. need to get hip to their licensing options. Upshot: the band curiously says you can’t distribute your versions, but you can upload them to YouTube. (What, no Vimeo?)

Second, there’s the video themselves … you could probably get a friend with a guitar and shoot them yourself in Manhattan. Oh, and the question of whether you really want to be helping R.E.M. market their new album in your VJ sets, if creating remixed videos for them isn’t really up your alley.

But despite those reservations, I still have to applaud their initiative. And I wonder, as well, as options grow, should VJs start to go legit? VJs have always “liberated” content — and, unlike sampling musicians, haven’t ever really had to answer for that. That much I think is fine; it’s part of the aesthetic of the medium. But it’s also been done, and VJs now have an opportunity to promote open source content that’s legally licensed for the purpose, as well as, more than ever, the easy ability to generate unique stuff.

Without turning this into a major controversy, I’m curious what people think. The question of ownership gets into other issues — club owners would love to record a DVD of a VJ set and just run that ad infinitum, without paying a VJ. But, having extracted whatever statement we’re going to make by sampling content out in the world, could we make a new statement about original and open-licensed content? (Yeah, I know — the answer most probably does not hinge on R.E.M.)

  • As a supporter of os material (whether it's media, code) I use a lot of OS stuff and would like to use it exclusively. However the half-assed efforts of a few well-meaning individuals will not make this realistic at any point in the near future. Remember the complilation that wired put out a few years ago – remix all you like as long as you don't redistribute? I can understand restrictions like not allowing redistribution for the purposes of making money, but come on. REM has missed the mark here – especially the reference to youtube. Youtube is actually pretty lame these days, hence the migration to vimeo for people in the know. Still, it's a great idea and a lot better than the tripe that U2 peddles.

  • I hear you. But do a search for CC *images* on Flickr, and you've got a different story:

    So the "fully-assed" efforts of a *lot* of well-meaning individuals will make this realistic.

    That tells you the real secret, though, which is people out shooting content. When video gets to the point that photos are at now … and this may take a very long time indeed … then we'll see something quite different. And I can imagine it even happening in smaller volumes with filmmakers, etc. Releasing under a non-commercial CC license could allow people to remix your documentary film, without threatening your income stream. Even the musicians are ahead on this. Video seems to be last, but it's also the hardest content to produce and deal with, so that makes sense.

  • I think most VJs would prefer open content given the choice, even though sampling culture has become more or less normative, in a don't-ask-don't-tell sort of way. I'd rather be an artist than a freedom fighter. Arguments over intellectual property make for good debate, but they often obstruct (or overshadow) the actual creative process.

    Openness in content, like software, is a matter of degrees. I am a proponent of open-source software, who works primarily on the Windows platform – I'm sure you can all taste the irony there. Given a choice, I simply try to show preference for things that are more open than not, without being so dogmatic as to paralyze my creativity.

    So yeah, this REM project isn't revolutionary, but it's newsworthy, and another shot across the bow by an artist who is in theory supposed to represent the "commercial" side of the equation. IMO it deserves to be praised, not bashed, by those who hope to see bigger steps toward openness in the future.

    My favorite free Windows tools for generating content / performing live:
    Whorld – http://whorld.org
    FFrend – http://ffrend.sourceforge.net/
    OpenTZT – http://www.opentzt.com/
    VisualJockey – http://www.visualjockey.com/

    btw, VisualJockey was just recently released as freeware (after being payware for a very long time) – which is pretty big news in its own right.

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  • Yeah it's great and everything that they are trying to jump on the open source bandwagon but really these ideas need a lot more work!

    It is not "Open Source" to provide the binary for free (that is called freeware)

    It is not "Open Source" to provide the binary and then say that people can reverse engineer it (that's weird so we don't have a name for it)

    "Open Source" means that you provide the source files (in film terms the "rushes") really to make a music video "open source" would require you to provide all the rushes (well at least the rushes that made the cut) as well as the project files from your compositing / editing application – most editing apps have the ability to export the project file with trimmed media source files so there is no huge technical reason to prevent people from producing an opensource music video (or feature film or whatever).

    However I suspect that the majority of efforts in this area are designed to generate publicity rather than actually provide creative opportunities to remix and reuse components of the film. The adoption of the perl foundation license is a case in point – this is not an appropriate license for a film work to be released under. It has too many references to software terminology and it is not clear how a court would interpret the license when applied to non-software items.

    The Creative Commons Licenses were specifically setup to enable the sharing and licensing for remix / reuse of creative works (such as film, music etc) If R.E.M really wanted to encourage remixes and reuse of their muisc video then they should of chosen the appropriate Creative Commons license.

    So I say boo to R.E.M for trying to cash in on publicity by claiming to be open source when they clearly have made little or no effort to workout what open source actually means.