You've got to hear this. I am listening to Larry Lessig on the radio on my laptop, talking about Creative Commons licenses on public radio. You can listen too, if you like.
Creative Commons makes it possible to choose a license that says, you can use my creative work in the following ways, without having to contact me first. There are 11 different license choices, and you can choose one that tells others: I will let you be creative too. If you use my creative work and stick to the freedoms I've attached to my work and honor the restrictions, you will never face a copyright attorney. When it comes to music, the result can be wondrous.
That is the word version. If you are a right-brain kind of person, or just like to visit, here is what he is saying, only in music.
One man, Colin Mutchler, played a guitar track he called "My Life" [ogg], and then he released it under a Creative Commons license, which let others change it any way they wanted. A seventeen-year-old violinist, named Cora Beth, found it on the Internet, downloaded it, and added her own violin track on top of it, then put it up on the Internet, calling her version, "My Life Changed" [ogg]. Just listen. It is the soundtrack of free culture.
Lessig: "The important point is there was no lawyer in between these two creators. They didn't have to secure permissions and find a record label to enable them to be able to share work, sign contracts. They were able to do it because the freedoms were already built into the content. Now, there are a lot of people who thought that's the way the internet was in the beginning. That it said you are free to do anything you want and a lot of us wish that was the basic rule about the internet. But the copyright war that the RIAA has been fighting for the last five years has basically changed the default of the internet into a regime that says you have to ask permission first and we think that is wrong."
You don't need the words, though. Just listen to the mp3s. You will understand Creative Commons licenses with the right side of your brain, which is the part the heart needs.
Your left brain will enjoy comparing Cora Beth with this music sampling ruling from the non Creative Commons world, in Bridgeport Music, Inc. v. Dimension Films, or if you wish, read about it in this article.