Legal innovation breeds artistic ecosystem

What do you get when you cross: a good musician,  Creative Commons, accessible authoring, creation, and hosting tools, and engaged listeners?   The Jonathan Coulton Project.

What do you get when you cross:

The Jonathan Coulton ProjectJonathan Coulton headlined the Creative Commons concert in Second Life I mentioned here last week, and, with the help of Creative Commons, encourages people to download and make videos of his music.  Not being a member of Second Life (yet?  dunno, my first life already gobbles more time than I actually have on hand), much as it intrigued me I didn't attend the concert, and until today had never heard any of Coulton's excellent music.  But, as concrete proof that a musician's audience grows by partnering with enthusiastic fans, and that it can and will transcend community boundaries (like, for example, the community of Creative Commons music aficionados, and/or Second Life devotees), I received an email this morning on an unrelated topic — education — from Ruth Logie.  Ruth stumbled on a post of mine "by sheer coincidence" and was kind enough to respond.  She happens to be a Jonathan Coulton fan and video project participant.  Almost as an afterthought, Ruth linked me to her Jonathan Coulton mashup on YouTube (which is both delightful and a potential legal problem due to its incorporation of Second Life material; though who knows, maybe Second Life will follow the lead of Warner Music*).  Thus did I finally actually listen to Coulton's music, and discover the participatory ecosystem it is fostering.  Check out Coulton's Flickr song and video, which he cites as the kind of work envisioned by the video project.  Coulton's description illustrates the way a series of Creative Commons works (selected Flickr photos) begot another (Coulton's song), which begot yet another (Coulton's video):

This is a song written for a video created for a song. All the images come from Flickr, an online database of photos uploaded by anyone - the ones I used have a Creative Commons license which allows anyone to re-use them in a new non-commercial work as long as they are credited, and as long as the new work is released under the same license.

So, to recap:  Ruth happens on me and my post, answers a parenthetical question there, introduces me to Jonathan Coulton, I pass it along here...where next?  We have an excellent comment feature if you'd like to continue the story.

There's another interesting legal issue lurking here.  For example, Second Life imagery is proprietary and a potential copyright problem, as Flickr recognizes.  But Second Life is not just a game, it's a gathering and interaction space, home variously to Second Life-only events like the concert Coulton headlined, virtual mirrors of real world events, and other occurrences in-world that have news value out here — business transactions, celebrity sightings, you name it.  What sort of journalistic protections might be extended to those who cover events in virtual worlds remains to be seen, but legal accommodation of this practice seems necessary and warranted.

[Updated September 21, 2006 @ 10:30 pm]  Related links:  feeds for Thing a Week and the Jonathan Coulton Project videocast; Coulton's YouTube channel; buy tracks; buy cds; buy in iTunes.

*[Updated September 22, 2006 @ 12:12 am]  Ruth kindly set me straight as to the origins of the visual portion of her video, and we're discussing that further in the comments.  [Updated September 23, 2006 @ 2:26 am]  There's a really fascinating question here, on which I'll do a separate post, relating to copyrights in machinima works created with The Movies.  For now, please see these two comment threads.