Lucy’s Irrevocable, Colossal, Terrible Mistake

Posted on 16 July 2013


‘Come on, just one download,’ the voice whispered. ‘How could it hurt?’

Not at all, thought Lucy. This was an orphaned work, out of print, not available through the normal channels. She believed in copyright, of course she did, but … all the time?

And then, a second download. This was an MP3. Musicians make lots of money, right? A few downloads wouldn’t make any difference.

But it never was a few downloads, was it?

A veritable digital Library of Alexandria poured into Lucy’s computer. Whole discographies seeped down fibre-optics and into the hard drive she bought especially for her selfish purpose.

The Beatles shed a single collective tear. ‘Really Lucy,’ they thought, even the ones that are now angels. ‘You could afford to buy a $63 hard drive off Ebay but not our entire collected works and those of ABBA, Madonna and The Monkees, which we noticed you also downloading?’

Lucy had no answer for these disincentivised ghosts, for she was cranking her bootleg Kanye West album too loud.

The music inspired her to create her own album, which she burned onto a CD and shared with a few friends.

Nor did Lucy limit herself to downloading. She fell in with a dangerous crowd who lurked in the corners of the Internet, handing out torrents and whispering of distributed networks that would finally put them beyond the reach of the Law.
One was a quilt-making libertarian. She filled Lucy’s head with silly anti-protectionism and copying as love. The sinful free culture–free love axis exposed itself.

Another was a deed-writing lawyer. He slipped a licence into Lucy’s pocket. ‘Just think about it,’ he offered. ‘What have you got to lose?’

The last was a hairy hacker. She drifted off to sleep as he sung her an Eastern European folk song.

Lucy awoke the next morning to find the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike licence taped to her freshly pressed CD. What had she done? Had she done it at all? Maybe the smooth-talking lawyer had licensed her work for her! Or perhaps the libertarian thought that the licence was only formalising the state of natural rights that existed! She could not believe such larceny of the hacker, for his voice was too beautiful.

Or maybe she had been so drunk on pirated music and talk of freedom and openness that she had done it herself, driven wild by the ecstasy of the moment.
It was a huge mistake.

People on the Internet began sharing her music. Legally, openly! When Lucy downloaded music, she had the decency to risk viruses and invasive cookies, ending up with mislabelled, low-quality MP3s. These people were sharing lossless FLAC files that correctly identified her as the musician responsible for these hectic beats! The cheek of it all.

It got worse.

She arranged a concert at a nearby pub. More people showed up than had come to all her previous gigs combined. Lucy realised that most of these people had downloaded her music from the hundreds of places across the web where it was freely hosted. They had refused to pay $15 for an album, depriving her of almost a dollar’s worth of royalties. And then they had the cheek to show up to her $20 concert. Some of them even bought merch afterwards, as if they deserved to be counted among her fans!

Of course, corporate interests took advantage of her stupidity.

An alternative bookshop in Sussex, on the other side of the world to Lucy, created a video ad with her favourite song as its backing track. The ad ended with a thanks to Lucy for releasing her music under a free, libre and open licence and a hyperlink. Hundreds more people visited her site, the passive consumers of big business! They used the donate button on her site to spray her with filthy lucre.

Overcome by disgust that the majority of her fans were pirates, Lucy retreated to a hippy commune. Up-and-coming director Sally Stone wanted to use Lucy’s music in her new film. She tried to reach Lucy, but had no luck. Shrugging, Sally used the music. To do so, the director had to release her entire film under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License.

The film inspired TV shows, fan fiction and artworks, most of which were Creative Commons licensed as well. When Lucy had finally steadied her chakras and was able to return to the outside world, she discovered that her years-old accident had created an explosion of creativity. Her album had a multiplying effect that rippled across the globe, exposing people in countries she had never even heard of to her creative work.
This was the future of her copyright works. Sharing, adaptations, remixes; the torrent of creativity would never end.

What a huge mistake.

To make sure this doesn’t become your future, you need to know the enemy. Closely familiarise yourself with the Creative Commons licences and how they can be applied to works.

Definitely do not include this text in anything you create:

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. To view a copy of this license, visit

Watch out for the free/libre/open fanatics who lead Lucy astray and will try to prey on you too:

And many others

Good luck. You’ll need it.

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This work takes part in the Future of Copyright Contest <>

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. To view a copy of this license, visit

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