Free Culture

NC Is Not Magnatune’s Secret Sauce

The NC business model that Magnatune use has clearly inspired Creative Commons. Magnatune’s success makes them a very positive model for a record label, but not in the way that might be expected from their use of NC. The problem is that the threats to their livelihoods that recording artists actually face are not the same as the ones that NC actually tackles.

NC doesn’t protect artists from losing value from non-sales distribution.

NC explicitly allows both internet-era filesharing and walkman-era personal copying. NC therefore gives away any value that a direct audience for music can actually want to take. And it is as powerless as standard copyright to stop organized illegal commercial copying.

NC doesn’t protect artists from being ripped off by middlemen.

Artists who use NC can still sign to a record label. Which NC then cannot prevent ripping them off, failing to promote them, or dropping them. Magnatune clearly state that they are not evil and make clear and public the financial terms of their relationship with their signed artists. This is far more important than NC for artists not being ripped off.

NC is not the dissuader in NC-SA, SA is.

Magnatune will sell proprietary licences for music by their artists to film producers who wish to use the music commercially. But it is unlikely that those producers would SA their films if the music they wish to use was SA-only. NC on top of SA is simply redundant in this case.

NC is not Magnatune’s secret sauce.

NC doesn’t stop artists losing sales, being ripped off, or losing proprietary use revenue. The secret sauce in Magnatune’s business model is their strong and public ethical position, and this is far more difficult to reproduce technologically than their use of NC.

4 replies on “NC Is Not Magnatune’s Secret Sauce”

I think John Buckman believes the CC-SA-NC is somehow a more compatible license than CC-SA.
Perhaps this arises because so many others use NC?
But yes, NC is short for ‘no clue’.

Good work! I also recently hit upon “NC is not the dissuader in NC-SA, SA is.” while discussing this with Ian Forrester.

Dudes – does anybody of you has a clear understanding that people who share are NOT the people who buy. The market of CD sales is not affected by file sharing systems at all. But is about selling music and sharing it as well. Here great danger to music industry comes. I can press my agent to take money from Russian ROMS from and online music sales. But I can press nobody at, once they decided to give a giveaway right to every byer.

Gnomidala – Magnatune have contracts with the musicians whose work they publish, so they do pay people when their work sells. They do also distribute the work under a Creative Commons NonCommercial-Sharealike license, so they are a place where music can “escape” from being paid for, but they do not make money on this work either. And they sell commercial use licenses for the work as well. But I’m not sure this works exactly how people think it does, so that’s why I wrote this post. 🙂

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