A free culture organisation

I have been thinking and talking about this quite some time now: A «free culture» organisation. So it’s time to get something on paper: I’ve started writing the business-model. As I think for our organisation transparency is a very important value, and as a wise man once said: «Release early, release often. Given enough eyeballs, all mistakes are shallow», I want to share my current view. Hereby I invite you to bring on new ideas, to correct mistakes, to steal my ideas and make an even better organisation.


Current situation

Currently there is a system of escalating fixed copyright fees. Copyrights are gathered from artists by for-profit companies who will try to use their monopoly on a cultural work to gain more money. The business-model that used to serve as a system to unite artists with consumers changed into one that hires lawyers to ban every case of fair use and reuse to both artists and consumers.

This system where every year new charges on other forms of media are collected is an untenable situation and innovation is required. This should not become a political discussion. It is easy to use the current system to provide artists with a valid alternative. They should not give away copyright on their work, but should be encouraged to manage theirs with support provided by a non profit organisation.

Free culture is defined by two clauses:

§1: Free culture has free artists which are free to do with their work what they want
§2: Free culture has free consumers, which are allowed to share, remix and reuse

Free culture in current legislation has been achieved already. Creative commons licenses are the perfect tools to co-act with current copyright laws.


Our main goal is to provide non-exclusive support for any artist who wants to make a living without relying on fixed fees. A secondary goal is to provide other businesses with music on the fly without having to pay fixed fees. An ambitious but intended side-effect should be that sharing of most files become legalised.


Business form: NPO (not-for-profit organisation)

Initial products :

  • mobile band specific applications for android platform: mobile applications for fans to follow their artists. Applications may contain microblogfeed, streaming audio of latest recordings, tourdates, chatbox, etc…
  • custom music (~recommendation) for other businesses
  • support your favourite artists: become member of our organisation and pay a flat membership fee. By pressing buttons on artist websites, blogs, etc… you can support that artist. At the end of the month this flat fee will be transfered to all the artists you supported that month.

Initial services:

  • Free support for artists:
    • Assigning to netlabel
    • Selling music on itunes, jamendo and other online music stores

Policy statement and vision

We solve a problem

Today if an artist wants to record his music in Belgium/Europe he has a binary choice: or he joins the only copyright management firm, or he doesn’t. We want to be the first of hopefully many organisations that supports artists in a new alternative way that doesn’t want to be evil nor exclusive for both artists and consumers.

Our values

The biggest question-mark with culture is to define what it is. Obviously the Mona Lisa by Leonardo Da Vinci is culture. But if we browse with an image search engine through the results of the query «Mona Lisa», few of them are the original work by Da Vinci. Are these remixes of the original work culture?

We like to think they are. Remixing and reusing are both part of our contemporary culture. In the end, all work is in some way derived from other work and by not allowing reuse of your own work you’re blocking cultural innovation.

-Pieter — Follow me on identi.ca



  1. Max

    A glorious idea, I’d love to see it executed. Borrowing, sharing, remixing — just as you say, everything in some way comes from something else, so that any innovation, whether technological, cultural, or otherwise, arrives atop the shoulders of some array of predecessors and forefathers. So long as the business model could sustain itself, it could do some real good for the artistic community.

  2. jejansse

    Great idea. There will be some political issues however. For example, in the current system television and radio stations (including online radio stations) are forced to pay fixed copyright fees to the sole existing copyright organisation. Even if the artists they play are not members of this organisation, then the money goes to the copyright organisation that usually holds those rights. If we truly want free culture to be possible, free radio stations need to be possible, and should be in the legal clear, not in some grey area where this organisation just states that it will not sue. I believe the law will have to be changed for this to be possible.

    Furthermore, and this is again political in some way, the NPO should make sure that the “billijke vergoeding” is also handled through the NPO, and not through the other organisations that currently handle the rights for all musicians (being a member or not). I believe the law needs to be changed for this to be possible as well.

    Next to this, a free culture organisation should also organise the “publieke mededelingsrechten” (don’t know the translation, sorry) in a modern way. For example bands should be able to state in a web application how much they want to make when their song is played on a party etc., and people wanting to use their music on a party should be able to see beforehand how much a certain playlist would cost. Ideally bands see this airplay as free publicity, and we should encourage them to see this, but I believe people will be more inclined to get on board when they can still choose.

    • pietercolpaert

      Hi Jeroen,

      thanks for your interesting comment. I agree 100% with your first point. It is a problem and should be fixed by political measures.

      The «billijke vergoeding» is something Belgium-specific. As I strongly believe in a stronger Europe I think it is going to disappear anyhow. It’s a matter of time, but as we know, politics lack 50 years behind on reality.

      For your third point you have the same opinion as the guys of Motion Music Manager (@colorlessgreen on twitter), but I don’t agree:
      Paying an artist for listening to recorded airwaves is like paying a carpenter for using a table. If an organisation wants to reward artists, they can donate in person or can donate indirectly to the NPO.

      That being said, it’s true that this would be a splendid improvement for Sabam, but it’s not a task for this NPO since we oppose the idea behind it.

      thanks for your input,

  3. jejansse

    Hi pieter,

    Don’t get me wrong on the third point, as I said I would rather see that playing music is free in all situations. As godfried willem raes puts it, it’s like paying the plumber each time you use the toilet. Furthermore it’s a double standard as restaurants for example do not have to pay each time a customer looks at a painting they hung up, but do have to pay to play legally obtained cds. Does not seem right to me. However I have my doubts on the feasibility of total abolishment in a new npo, at least in current times. That is why i would propose this system at first, but I can understand that it’s incompatible with the ideas underlying the npo, and hence better not introduced.

    What the billijke vergoeding is concerned: if i recall correctly, it was introduced because of a European guideline. Hence looking at Europe to fix the problem might not be the best solution. But I could be wrong on this one.

    Anyhow, if you need help with this npo, I would be glad to help. As you can see, my pen is less sharp when I have more characters available to state my thoughts ;).

  4. jejansse

    Another something that I forgot to mention: auvibel. For as long as we’re stuck with it, a new NPO would have to try to get a reasonably sized piece of this cake, and invest it in: 1. the abolishment of this absurd piece of law; 2. local bands (through sponsoring of talent shows etc.). I.e. use the money for something good (promoting local talent and music), instead of filling pockets.

  5. Pingback: A free culture organisation – bis « Bon sans nom

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