Lest anyone misunderstand when I urge that tomorrow’s dataways remain unfettered and clear, this means easy availability of information. It does not imply anarchy or never having to pay for what others worked to produce…

The slogan of the independent record label Magnatune is “we are not evil.” Magnatune, founded by in 2003 by John Buckman, uses that slogan as a badge of honor. Magnatune is out there proving that a practical, open approach to copyright can generate a profit. Magnatune focuses on quality artists across the wide range of music genres, guarantees them at least 50% of all revenue, and lets them keep their own rights.

Magnatune offers, for free, access to simple, medium quality (128 kbps MP3) sound files of its albums under the Creative Commons’ Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share-Alike license. This explicitly allows several forms of free use such as using the music in non-commercial projects like school projects. This acts often as free advertising for the label’s catalog. This license also allows for other creative people to create their own derivatives as long as they license their derivatives in the same Creative Commons license. One of the artists, Victor Stone, signed to Magnatune created his music entirely from samples and phrases from other Magnatune artists. Victor Stone has also helped to encourage others to do similar creative remixing through his involvement with the CCMixter community site started by Creative Commons.

Magnatune then makes its money from CD sales to those who would want an old-fashioned CD, from sales of higher quality formats (such as Ogg Vorbis, FLAC, or WAV), and from sales in additional licenses, such as non-Share-alike for those seeking to make derivatives and not license under the Creative Commons license and for those looking for commercial rights to the music.

We let the music sell itself, because we think that's the best way to get you excited by it.

Magnatune is a pioneer as an originator of “not evil” music. Business leaders should start to look to a company like Magnatune for an example of how to do things well in the coming age. Magnatune is out there proving that you can both support a more relaxed copyright and compete in a big way with old fashioned publishers, all from just a single website.