AGNULA Libre Music - Free Software for Free Music Media Innovation Unit - Firenze Tecnologia [email protected], [email protected] Nicola Bernardini organized a workshop in AGNULA Libre Music is a part of the larger AG- Firenze, Italy at the beginning of June 2001, NULA project, whose goal as a european–funded inviting an ever–growing group of support- (until April 2004) and as mixed private–volunteer ers and contributors (including: Marco Tre- driven (until today) project was to spread Free Soft- ware in the professional audio and sound domains; Davis, Fran¸cois D´echelle, Georg Greve, Stanko specifically, AGNULA Libre Music (ALM from now Juzbasic, Giampiero Salvi, Maurizio Umberto on) is a web–based datase of music pieces licensed under a “libre content” license. In this paper1 An- the occasion to start the first concrete DeMuDi drea Glorioso (former technical manager of the AG-NULA project) and Davide Fugazza (developer and distribution, the venerable 0.0 alpha which was maintainer of AGNULA Libre Music) will show the technical infrastructure that powers ALM, its rela- help from Marco Trevisani. A bootable CD- tionship with other, similar, initiatives, and the so- version was then burned just in time for the cial, political and legal issues that have motivated the birth of ALM and are driving its current devel- unter Geiger and Nicola Bernardini held a tu- torial workshop showing features, uses and ad-vantages of DeMuDi(D´echelle et al., 2001).
AGNULA, libre content, libre music, Creative Com- mission awarded the AGNULA Consortium — composed by the Centro Tempo Reale, IR-CAM, the IUA-MTG at the Universitat Pom- peu Fabra, the Free Software Foundation Eu- rope, KTH and Red Hat France — with con- In 1998 the situation of sound/music Free Soft- sistent funding for an accompanying measure ware applications had already reached what lasting 24 months (IST-2001-34879). This ac- could be considered well beyond initial pio- companying measure, which was terminated on neeristic stage. At that time, the biggest prob- March 31st 2004, gave considerable thrust to lem was that all these applications were dis- persed over the Internet: there was no common entific applications previously unreleased in bi- operational framework and each and every ap- nary form and the possibility to pay professional plication was a case-study by itself.
personnel to work on the distribution.
After the funded period, Media Innovation Unit, a component of Firenze Tecnologia (itself Dave Phillips and Maurizio De Cecco) to build a technological agency of the Chamber of Com- DeMuDi (Debian Multimedia Distribution) an merce of Firenze) has decided to partly fund unofficial Debian-based binary distribution of sound/music Free Software, something hap- Ekanayaka2 is the current maintainer of the dis- AGNULA has constituted a major step in the 1 This paper is Copyright c 2005 Fugazza, Glo- direction of creating a full-blown Free Software It is licensed under a Creative Commons BY- infrastructure devoted to audio, sound and mu- SA 2.0 License (see
sic, but there’s much more to it: it is the first proval,6 the zeitgeist was ripe with the “Com- example of a European-funded project to clearly specify the complete adherence of its results to A number of relevant academic authors from the Free Software paradigm in the project con- different disciplines had launched a counter– tract, thus becoming an important precedent for attack against what was to be known as the similar projects in the future (Bernardini et al., “new enclosure movement”, (Boyle, 2003): the attempt of a restricted handful of multinationalenterprises to lobby (quite succesfully) for new copyright extension and a stricter application of The result of this strategy on behalf of the pointed as the new technical manager of the multinational enterprises of the music business AGNULA project, replacing Marco Trevisani was twofold: on the one hand, annoying tens who had previously served in that position of thousands of mostly law–abiding consumers but was unable to continue contributing to the with silly lawsuits that had no chance of stand- ing in the court7;8 on the other hand, motivat- This is not the place to explain in detail how ing even more authors to escape the vicious cir- cle of senseless privatization that this system project tackled the several issues which had to be handled in the transition, mainly because of It seemed like a good moment to prove that the novelty of the concept of “Free Software” AGNULA really wanted to provide a service for the European Commission (a novelty which to its community, and that it really had its sometimes resulted in difficulties to “speak a roots (and its leaves, too) in the sort of “peer- common language” on project management is- to-peer mass production” (Benkler, 2002) that sues) and of the high profile of the project itself, Free Software allowed and, some would argue, both inside the Free Software audio community called for. After investing a major part of its — for being the first project completely based human and financial resources on creating the on Free Software and funded with european project management infrastructure for working money — and in the European Commission — on the two GNU/Linux distributions the project for being the first project completely based aimed to produce, it was decided that a web– on Free Software and funded with european accessible database of music would be created, and the music it hosted would be shared andmade completely open for the community at The interesting point of the whole story — and the reason why it is cited here — is thatthe new Technical Manager, in agreement with Davide Fugazza was hired as the chief archi- the Project Coordinator (Nicola Bernardini, at tect and lead developer of AGNULA Libre Mu- the time research director of Centro Tempo sic, which saw its light in February 2004.9 Reale) decided to put more attention on the “social” value of project, making the life of What might be missing in the short history of the project more open to the reference com- ALM is that the decision to allow for the Eu- ropean Commission funding to be spent on this opers gravitating around the so called LA*mailing lists: linux-audio-announce,3 linux- 6 The reader should remember that AGNULA, being audio-users,4 linux-audio-dev5) as well as creat- a publicly financed project, had significant constraints on what could or could be done during its funded life- In September 2003, when the first idea of AG- time — the final decision and responsibility towards theEuropean Commission rested in the hands of the Project NULA Libre Music was proposed to the Project Coordinator by the Technical Manager for ap- 7 3 8 In fact, it can be argued that the real strategic rea- son of these lawsuits had a marketing/PR reason rather 4 than substantial grounds, which does not make them less 5 sub–project of the main AGNULA project was of assuring data integrity and the validation of all information according to the given specifica-tions.
• The European Commission, as all large po- Registration is free (as in free speech and in litical bodies, is under daily pressure by free beer) and anonymous — the only request is several different lobbies;10 the “all rights a valid e-mail address, to be used for automatic reserved” lobby, which is pressuring for In the spirit of libre content promotion, no the scope of neighbouring rights, was par- separation of functionalities between “simple users” and “authors” has been implemented: project was launched (and still is, by the both classes of users can benefit from the same way). This made financing a project, whose primary goal was to distribute content withflexible copyright policies, questionable in • Uploading and publishing of audio files • Software is not content in the eyes of the European Commission, which maintainsa very strict separation between the two • Creation of personalized playlist, to be ex- ported in the .pls and .m3u formats, them- fields in its financing programmes.11 Using domain to distribute content was poten-tially risky, albeit the reasons for doing so Other features which are available to anony- • The licensing scheme which ALM applies, • A search engine with the possibility of censes,12, did not and does not map cleanly on the licensing ontology of Free Software.
• RSS 2.0 feed with enclosures, to be used Although there are striking similiarities in with “podcasting” supporting clients;16; the goals, the strategies and the tactics ofCreative Commons Corporation, Free Soft- • For developers and for integration with other services, ALM offers a SOAP (Group, 2003) interface that allows queries to be re- Creative Commons licenses can be consid-ered “Free” when analyzed under the lens of “Software” (Rubini, 2004). This point isdiscussed with more detail in section 4 ALM uses the PostgreSQL database17 as theback–end and the PHP language18 for its web– enabled frontend. PHP also handles a page tem-plating and caching system, though the Smarty publishing system, optimized and specialized through a form displayed on users’ browsers; for audio files publication and management.
first HTTP handles the upload on a temporary Registered users is given complete access to location on the server, and then a PHP script his/her own material. The system takes care copies the audio files to their final destination.
10 Please note that in this paper the term “lobby” is It is in this phase that the MP3 or OGG Vorbis used with no moral judgement implied, meaning just a metags, if already available in the file, are read.
“pressure group” which tries to convince someone to ap- ply or not apply a policy of a certain kind.
It could be argues that, in the digital world, the difference between data (“content”) and computer pro- 16 See
Besides, a form for the modification/creation of The system ask which license should be ap- plied to the files — without this indication files The overall goal was to allow for the broad- are not published and remain in an “invisible” est possible distribution of music, leaving to the state, except for the registered user who up- author the choice whether to apply or not a “copyleft” clause (Stallman, 2002a) — i.e. that To avoid abuses of the service and the up- all subsequent modifications of the original work loading of material which has not been prop- should give recipients the same rights and duties erly licensed to be distributed, all visitors (even that were given to the first recipient, thus creat- anonymous ones) can signal, through a script ing a sort of “gift economy” (Stallman, 2002b), which is present in every page, any potential albeit of a very particular nature, possible only copyright violation to the original author. The thanks to the immaterial nature of software (or script also puts the file into an “invisible” status until the author either reviews or modifies the We chose not to allow for “non-commercial uses only” licenses, such as the various Cre-ative Commons licenses with the NC (Non Commercial) clause applied. The reason for this To guarantee a correct usage of the files and choice are various, but basically boil down to the an effective way to verify licenses, the scheme proposed by the Creative Commons project hasbeen adopted (Commons, 2004). Such scheme • Most of the AGNULA team comes from the Free Software arena; thus, the “non com-mercial” clause is seen as potentially mak-ing the work non-free. Further consider- ations on the difference between software • using a web page to verify the license; and music, video or texts, and the differentfunctional nature of the two sets would be ALM uses the “TCOP” Copyright tag, which in order here; but until now, an “old way” the ID3v2 metadata format provides (Nilsson, 2000), to show the publishing year and the URLwhere licensing terms can be found.
• It is extremely difficult to define what “non commercial” means; this is even more true This page, which lives on the AGNULA Libre when considering the different jurisdiction Music server, contains itself the URL of the Cre- in which the works will be potentially dis- ative Commons licensing web page; moreover, it tributed, and the different meanings that contains an RDF (Group, 2004) description of the term “commercial” assumes. Besides, what authors often really want to avoid is speculation on their work, i.e. a big com-pany using their music, but have no objec- • to verify the authenticity of the license; tion against smaller, “more ethical” entitiesdoing so.22 However, “non commercial” li- • to make it available a standardized descrip- tion to search engines or specialized agents; censing does not allow such fine–grained se-lection (Pawlo, 2004).
AGNULA Libre Music is far from reaching its AGNULA Libre Music has decided to accept the maximum potential. There are several key ar- following licenses to be applied on the audio files eas which the authors would like to explore; published and distributed through the system: • Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 22 The decision of what constitutes an “ethical” busi- ness vs a non–ethical one is of course equivalent to open- ing a can of worms, and will not be discussed here.
moreover — and perhaps, much more interest- ingly for the reader — the AGNULA project As the reader may expect, projects such as AG- has always been keen to accept help and contri- butions from interested parties, who share our sult of the common effort of a very large pool commitment to Free Software23 and circulation of motivated people. And indeed, giving credit to any deserving individual that contributed to More specifically, the ares which the ALM these projects would probably fill completely the space allotted for this paper. Therefore,we decided to make an arbitrarily small selec- tion of those without whose help AGNULA and BitTorrent24 has shown its ability to act AGNULA Libre Music would not probably ex- as an incredibly efficient and effective way ist. First of all, we would like to thank Richard to share large archives (Cohen, 2003). AG- Stallman, without whose effort Free Software would not exist at all; Lawrence Lessig, whose ing a system to automatically and regularly steadfast work on behalf of the Digital Com- create archives of its published audio files.
mons has given justice to all the less known persons that worked on the subject in unriper times. Special thanks go to Roberto Bresin andto the Speech, Music and Hearing department • Integration with Open Media Streaming of the Royal Institute of Sweden (KTH) for hosting the main AGNULA Libre Music server.
Other people that deserve our gratitude are:Philippe Aigrain and Jean-Fran¸cois Junger, theEuropean Commission officials that have been promoting the idea that AGNULA was a viable project against all odds inside the Commission itself; Dirk Van Rooy, later AGNULA Project Officer, Marc Leman and Xavier Perrot, patient AGNULA Project Reviewers; Luca Mantellassi and Giovanni Nebiolo, respectively President of Firenze’s Chamber of Commerce and CEO of Firenze Tecnologia, for their support.
tion, free and interoperable alongwith the proprietary streaming applications currently dominanton the market.” Y. Benkler. 2002. Coase’s penguin, or, linux and the nature of the firm. The Yale LawJournal, 112.
ALM is currently analyzing the necessarystep to interface its music archive with N. Bernardini, D. Cirotteau, F. Ekanayaka, Standards to disseminate its contents. Be- sides, OMS is currently the only streaming server which “understands” Creative Com- J. Boyle. 2003. The second enclosure movement and the construction of the public domain.
Law and Contemporary Problems, 66:33–74,Winter-Spring.
23 It should be noted that Free Software Foundation Europe holds a trademark on the name “AGNULA”; the licensing terms for usage of such trademark clearly, state that only works licensed under a license considered “free” by the Free Software Foundation can use the name“AGNULA”.
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