October 20, 2003
Announcing the Gnomoradio Project, and Calling for Musicians
Over the past several months, we have been planning and developing a project that allows artists to easily distribute their music freely on the Internet. The program produced by the Gnomoradio project will allow listeners to easily find music that may be of interest to them. It will be free software, licensed under the terms of the GNU General Public License.
There are many benefits for musicians and users alike associated with the free distribution of music. Free distribution of some or many songs allows an artist to gain exposure, increasing sales of merchandise, recordings, and concert tickets. It will also allow a community to form where information and artistic works are shared freely. Right now, we are calling for artists who are interested in such a system to label their music for free distribution so that it can be available when Gnomoradio is released in the coming weeks.
Already, a community has formed where computer programs are developed and shared freely. The free software community has produced great software such as GNU/Linux, Apache, Mozilla, and GNOME. The Gnomoradio program will also be free software, and it will initially run in the GNOME desktop environment. It will be able to sort, organize, choose, and play music based on a user's inferred listening preferences. It will also download and play new songs that the user is likely to enjoy, based on a comparison of the user's ratings with the ratings of other people. In addition, it will act as a peer-to-peer file transfer program, allowing the music to be downloaded from the fastest location possible, thus conserving bandwidth on the artist's behalf. The method of obtaining the song will simply be transparent to the user. Songs will be identified by an Internet address (a URL) which will point to information about the song, a machine-readable license, a method of verifying the downloaded song, a link to the artist's web site, and information about purchasing any available recordings of the song. This will be based on the great work that the Creative Commons project has done in machine-readable licensing in the open RDF/XML formats.
Some people may wonder why we are writing yet another peer-to-peer file transfer protocol and music player. In fact, there are already many programs that allow people to share files on a peer-to-peer network. Many of these programs expose much of the file-transfer protocol to the user. Often, a user will get a listing of many identical files, or slightly different versions of the same thing. Also, there is no way of verifying that the resource is the exact resource you are looking for. Gnomoradio will take care of all of these details and obtain a song through the best means. Since Gnomoradio only automatically shares songs under free licenses, legal issues surrounding peer-to-peer file transfers are no longer an issue. All transfers can be done in the open, and only those artists that wish to participate and allow people to distribute their music freely will participate.
Explicitly allowing people to share music is good because it guarantees them that they will not be prosecuted now, or in the future, for doing so. Some artists encourage the illegal sharing of music by telling their fans to obtain their music on file transfer systems, without legally granting them that right. We feel that this type of sharing is not productive, does not build community, and must be done secretly since it is illegal. For this reason, we recommend that if an artist wishes to distribute his or her music freely, then that artist should use a free license to express that.
There are many things that you can do to assist the project. Contributions of time are needed to help raise awareness and to further develop the software. We expect to have a development release in the coming weeks. Until then, one of the main factors crucial to the success of the project is to build an ample supply of free music. We encourage any artist to consider licensing some or all of their music under the Creative Commons licenses. In many ways, the increased exposure will be much more valuable than anything gained by limiting the availability of your music under exceedingly restrictive copyright terms. Obscurity is a larger problem for most musicians than too many people listening to their songs. The principal developers of the Gnomoradio project have licensed some of the music produced by their band. In addition, we already have ska, techno, and hardcore music lined up to be put on the system. Many diverse styles of music will allow the system to gain greater momentum and exposure.
If you would like more information, please visit our web site at http://gnomoradio.org/. We have set up mailing lists to address concerns from artists and developers. Please feel free to subscribe to those lists or to contact us directly.