Free music

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Free music is music that, like free software, can freely be copied, distributed and modified for any purpose. Thus free music is either in the public domain or licensed under a free license by the artist or copyright holder themselves, often as a method of promotion. It does not mean that there should be no fee involved. The word free refers to freedom (as in free software), not to price.[1]

Some free music is licensed under licenses that are intended for software (like the GPL) or other written media (the GFDL). But there are also licenses especially for music and other works of art, such as EFF's Open Audio License, LinuxTag's Open Music License, the Free Art license and some of the Creative Commons Licences.



Before the advent of copyright law in the early 18th century, all music was free. Copyright laws changed this gradually so much so that in the late 20th century, copying a few words of a musical composition or a few seconds of a sound recording, the two forms of music copyright, could be considered criminal infringement[2].

In response, the concept of free music was codified in the Free Music Philosophy[1] by Ram Samudrala in early 1994. It was based on the idea of Free Software by Richard Stallman and coincided with nascent open art and open information movements. Up to this point, few modern musicians distributed their recordings and compositions in an unrestricted manner, and there was no concrete rationale as to why they did it, or should do it.[citation needed]

The Free Music Philosophy used a three pronged approach to voluntarily encourage the spread of unrestricted copying, based on the fact that copies of recordings and compositions could be made and distributed with complete accuracy and ease via the Internet. First, since music by its very nature is organic in its growth, the ethical basis of limiting its distribution using copyright laws was questioned. That is, an existential responsibility was fomented upon music creators who were drawing upon the creations of countless others in an unrestricted manner to create their own. Second, it was observed that the basis of copyright law, "to promote the progress of science and useful arts", had been perverted by the music industry to maximise profit over creativity resulting in a huge burden on society (the control of copying) simply to ensure its profits. Third, as copying became rampant, it was argued that musicians would have no choice but to move to a different economic model that exploited the spread of information to make a living, instead of trying to control it with limited government enforced monopolies[3].

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