Copyright talk with Olivier Charbonneau: what's your end goal?

What is your goal as an artist or creator? Do you want your music to simply be shared among friends for fun? Or are you looking to make a career out of your musical talent? What path do you want to take to get to your end goal?

These are the types of questions that came to light during my discussion with Olivier Charbonneau last Thursday.

Olivier is a Creative Commons Canada Advisory Board Member, is working on his PhD in law, and is also an Associate Librarian at Concordia University in Montreal. Olivier’s interests include copyright and questions about open access and social media, according to his Creative Commons Canada profile.

He said that his interest in copyright and his work as a librarian go hand-in-hand. “I see librarians as sort of doctors of copyright,” he said. It is Olivier’s job to buy licences for the library in order to enable people to use copyrighted content. “I’m in there in the trenches trying to get copyright content to people and foster this market of cultural good.”

Olivier’s interest in open access and copyright sparked his involvement in Creative Commons Canada. The Creative Commons licences are one way creators can allow for greater access to their work. “Copyright forbids what technology allows, and the only way to reverse that situation is to allow something that is either through contracts or licences or through exceptions in the Copyright Act.”

Olivier suggested users of copyrighted work (such as cover artists) ask four questions before they circulate the material:

  1. Ask yourself if what you’re wanting to use is under copyright. See if you can obtain a licence from a copyright collective (such as SOCAN,  Re:Sound, and CMRRA) if it is.
  2. You should then see if there is an exception in the Copyright Act. For instance, does it fall under the category of fair dealing (In other words, is it being used for research, private study, news reporting, criticism and review, satire and parody, or education?) or user-generated content?
  3. See if you can contact the rights holder(s) directly to request permission.
  4. Finally, see if there is something else you can use instead. For instance, there might be something in the public domain (check out websites like the International Music Score Library Project for music in the public domain) or under a Creative Commons licence. Tweak what you’re doing so that it will adhere to one of the other options above.

Just as users should consider the work they want to utilize, artists should think about what type of licence they want their work under.

One particular benefit for artists who licence their music under Creative Commons is that more people may hear and become fans of an artist’s work when the songs can be disseminated more openly, said Olivier. This can help them gain further popularity.

However, it’s hard to get exclusive rights back if artists change their mind, said Olivier. This is because all the copies, shares, uses, and possible alterations that were made public when the work was under its CC licence, are still allowed to remain in circulation for public access. Removing a CC licence will only ensure that there can be no new uses from the artist’s work.

So, if an artist wants to be signed by a mainstream record label that asks for all rights to the music, an artist might have to work a little harder to prove that the songs under the CC licence are just as valuable. “I don’t know how much of a disadvantage it is for real, but it is something you have to think about,” said Olivier. Artists must keep in mind that contracts are negotiable, he added.

In the end, it is all up to the artist or user what path to success or fun they choose to take.

“Copyright is super important for sure,” said Olivier. “But what’s even more important is what your objectives are. What do you want to get out of the creation? ...  Forget about all your options and ask yourself what is true to you. What do you want?”

Disclaimer! Although Olivier certainly knows a lot about copyright, he emphasized to me that he is not a lawyer and therefore, his comments, ideas, and suggestions are not legal advice that you would receive from a lawyer. It is suggested that you talk to a lawyer for any legal issues you might personally have.

If you’d like to hear more from Olivier, he has two awesome blogs! His French blog is and his English blog is!

To hear Olivier talk about Creative Commons, watch this informative video called “Using copyright content licensed under Creative Commons or from the Public Domain”.

My Weekly OIMA Pick:

No Cup of Tea - Binaeshee-Quae

First of all, she has a lovely voice! On top of that, the lyrics are beautiful! What more can I say? It’s a great song!