Home »Knowledge base»The wikiloops public license explained for creatives

The wikiloops public license explained for creatives

On this page:

This article is a guide, not a legally binding document

Please be aware that the information provided in this article is intended to point out a selection of aspects which may be relevant to you, in a casual easy to comprehend language. It is not intended as legal advice, nor as an addition to- or change of the license it talks about.
The legally binding text form of the wikiloops public license is documented in the wikiloops terms of use.

Licensing explained

This article covers information about the wikiloops public license, which is the mandatory license to choose when uploading tracks to the public part of wikiloops.
We will address the points which are of interest to the creatives who may grant licenses when publishing tracks on wikiloops.

If you are not aiming to publish tracks on wikiloops but are looking for information on what you are allowed to do with wikiloops music outside of wikiloops, please continue reading this article.

Before we go over the details of the offered license, let's explain why this is a necessity and what licensing is all about.

What is licensing?
Licensing can be understood as "documenting that someone else is allowed to do something which involves using something that belongs to me, under the condition that my documented requirements are met".

How it works, and what it does - understanding the crucial aspects of licensing
A really, really simple example to understand licensing could look like this:
Let's assume you say: "Everyone may play my guitar, if they wash their hands before touching it and do not play stairway to heaven."
If you wrote that on a piece of paper and signed it, you would have licensed the use of your guitar under the stated conditions.
Now, one crucial aspect would be: Where do you keep that piece of paper? If you lock it in your drawer, no one will know about it, so people will (hopefully) bug you by asking if they are allowed to play your guitar, or continue to just take it with unwashed hands - neither is what you wanted to achieve. If however you attach the written notice to your guitar for anyone to see, you and anyone who might be interested have an easy way to know what is allowed and what is not.
Licenses must be available to the involved people, otherwise there is little use to licensing.

Sticking to our dummy example, let's point out a second aspect to licensing: The question of "How a license creates the desired effect".
What would happen if you "licensed" your guitar under the stated conditions and someone started playing "stairway to heaven"?
Legally speaking, your licenses conditions are no longer met, since playing that song is "not covered by the granted license".
But that does not mean your written note will actively interfere and stop the guy from playing.
It is crucial to understand that licensing (in the sense of writing down the rules) is not equal to having these rules enforced.
Licensing rather documents a rule-set to be able to tell when the given rules are broken, and to serve as proof that anyone who did not stick to the publicly known rules is clearly "in the wrong".
The whole aspect of ensuring a licenses conditions are met, informing the rule-breakers about his wrong-doing, claiming recompense or even punishment for having broken your rules is a ballgame of its own.
The act of licensing does not necessarily lead to any engagement in enforcing the licenses conditions.
Maybe you are wondering if the previous statement is equivalent to "licenses are basicly useless, unless you hire an enforcement team", and there is some truth to that.
On the other hand, you should consider that people generally tend to stick to rules which they are aware of. To use another simple example, people generally accept speed limits on roads even tho not every speed limit sign comes with a policeman who enforces it.
Drivers may slightly bend the rules, but most will stick to them to avoid potential trouble.
Licenses give a great basis to let users feel breaking the rules is potential trouble, and prevent anyone from claiming "I did not know there where these rules", so one may conclude they do serve their general purpose regardless of hiring an license-enforcement-service.

back to top

Purposes of licensing your music when uploading tracks to wikiloops

To understand the purpose of licensing your music when publishing it on wikiloops, note that you will be asked to grant a license which includes sets of rights and conditions for two distinct kinds of license users, namely wikiloops and "any private user".

The purpose of granting wikiloops a set of rights & conditions can be summarized as "Allowing wikiloops to offer my music in the services provided by wikiloops",
while the purpose of the rights set granted to the private end-user is limited to: "Allowing private people to have fun and to create remixes".
Both parts of the license are necessary to clarify the rules among the participating people -
if we operated wikiloops without this mandatory license, anyone who shared music on wikiloops could turn around and try to sue wikiloops and anyone who remixed their tracks for making use of their music unrightfully.
Of course that would be a crazy thing to happen, but by installing the license which documents the agreement between the license-granter and the license-takers, everyone is safe and knows what has been allowed and what has not.

Let's try to get to the core by answering a few questions:

back to top

Seeing that I'm granting rights to two parties, does that mean I can grant unlimited co-existing licenses?

This question leads us towards another important aspect to licensing, which is described by dividing licenses into the categories "exclusive license" vs. "non-exclusive license".

To answer the question-at-hand up front, the wikiloops public license is non-exclusive, so the initial questions short answer is:
Yes, you can keep granting other licenses for tracks that you have licensed and published under the wikiloops public license, but you need to be aware of at least the following two factors.

Licensing conflicts I: Do not sell the same camel to three people
To make the example vivid, let us return to our dummy-licensing case, in which you grant a license on the use of your guitar and the conditions you attach (see the examples scenario here).
What we have not thought of in the example was the exclusivity factor of that license - you chose to grant the use-right to anyone who met your conditions, but seeing that you only have one guitar, you are risking trouble.
As soon as two people who meet your conditions want to play it at the same time, and both argue their right to do so based on your license.
This kind of conflict is very likely to happen if you do not take care when granting rights.

Given that you are the only participant and author, you may publish your track under the wikiloops public license and give someone else a separate license, granting rights on the same track - since the digital track can be multiplied and used by unlimited people at the same time, we do not have to worry about that.

A quite common case is users granting a license to the provider of a video- or audio-streaming platform they would like to post their track to, and there is nothing wrong with that.
The potential pitfall to avoid when granting such follow-up licenses is that you will be responsible to make sure not to contradict existing licenses.
An example:
You published a track on wikiloops, no other musicians are involved in it but you.
Now you upload the same track to another internet platform.
If the provider of the web-platform requires exclusive online streaming rights and you grant those,
the provider will expect to be entitled to claim wikiloops may not stream the track, and may try to enforce their right by going to court.
wikiloops will rightfully claim it has the right to stream the track, as you granted a wikiloops public license.
At the end of the story, you are the one to blame for missing to inform the provider that the track had been previously licensed.

The crucial fact which you will need to understand is:
Even tho the wikiloops public license is non-exclusive in all aspects, granting it puts you in a situation where you may no longer grant someone else exclusive rights.

Applied to our dummy "I grant use rights of my guitar"-license, we might consider adding a condition of: "... given that no one else is currently playing it." to avoid that kind of conflicts between license-takers.

Licensing conflicts II: Do not sell a camel which you do not own completely
So far, we have touched quite a lot of aspects that assume you are the only owner of rights of the thing you are licensing.
Applied to wikiloops, that is only true for session templates which you upload. If you create a remix of someone elses track, you end up owning only your additional part of the track.
Applied to our dummy-scenario, this would be equivalent to your guitar being attached to your brothers amplifier, and again, this stupid example gives us a clear idea of why we better not allow people to use this co-owned setup without knowing our co-owner is fine with that.
The first conclusion to draw here is:
You can not grant licenses for remixes of wikiloops tracks which contain other musicians music without asking their permission.
The good news is, there is one exception to above rule:
Since the tracks offered for remixing on wikiloops are licensed under the wikiloops public license, we have a document that tells us we do not need to ask the creators under some conditions.
The wikiloops public license explicitly allows creating and publishing remixes on wikiloops, under the conditions of the wikiloops public license.
So, by self-referencing, the wikiloops public license entitles you to grant itself on remixes, without any need to ask - which of course also means that other musicians may do the same with your track if you grant this license.
This makes things miraculously easy to handle, just as if your brother had applied a note to his amp which required exactly the same use-conditions as you attached to your guitar.

back to top

Which rights am I granting to these two kinds of license users?

The wikiloops users receive the right to use your track for private enjoyment, including the right to
- listen to your music
- store it on their computers and audio devices and create private copies
- pass it on to friends
- create remixes of your music by adding more instruments
- publish such remixes on wikiloops

wikiloops itself receives additional rights, including the right to
- use your track outside of "private use". Private use simply would not cover uploading your music to any web-servers which are owned by a company, and the wikiloops media UG (haftungsbeschränkt) does not qualify as a private legal entity, so the conditions need to be extended to include the wikiloops project.
- offer your track as stream-able audio and as downloadable digital file to the public. Both of these aspects are required to give wikiloops the documented right to operate the public collaboration
- publish your track outside of wikiloops own web-domains to promote wikiloops

back to top

Which conditions can I set up for granting those rights?

You may not add individual conditions when granting a wikiloops public license, since that would lead to enormous research effort on each and every track.
Instead you are agreeing on the included set of conditions which apply to all tracks licensed under the wikiloops public license.

The included conditions needed to be met by private end-users can be summarized to:
- the wikiloops user-names of the participating musicians must be mentioned as the authors of the track wherever the track is used
- the track may not be sold or made available in any way that aims at generating revenue
- remixes may only be published under the conditions of the wikiloops public license
Private end-users who meet the above conditions are granted the use-rights for free.

The conditions needed to be met by wikiloops can be summarized to:
- wikiloops must name the participants whenever a track is played or offered for download
- a link to the wikiloops public license must be displayed wherever the track is used
- the track must become accessible to end-users for free
Given these conditions are met, wikiloops may use the track for free.

Different conditions apply in the event that wikiloops sells or grants use-rights to any 3rd party which result in financial revenue.
As the wikiloops public license regulates, 50% of such revenues have to be split among the musicians participating in a track.
In almost 7 years of operating wikiloops, no such financial transaction has ever happened, and wikiloops is not intending to actively sell music, but in case it ever did, your share is settled by the license.

back to top

Can licenses be changed or revoked once they have been granted?

wikiloops licenses can not be revoked and do not expire,
also their scope is not restricted to any countries (which would not make any sense in a global online jamming community).

That being said, you do have options to remove tracks from wikiloops within a short timeframe after uploading them, and the effect will be the same as if you had revoked the license.
However, please note that you may not remove tracks which have already been remixed by other wikiloops users.
These users acted based on the rights you granted them, and you may not revoke these rights, nor can you delete a track from wikiloops if it has a remix attached.

back to top

How do I know if wikiloops licenses are what I want to work with?

If you have read the previous paragraphs on this page,
you may have an idea wether the wikiloops public licensing system seems right for your own musical output -
but regardless of what you feel is the right thing to do with your music, please keep in mind that you are "working with" the wikiloops public license all the time when using wikiloops.
All streaming and downloading activity offered by wikiloops is only available based on the wikiloops public license, and any of your uses of the existing public track collection can only happen based on this license agreement (if you do not happen to have made separate agreements with all wikiloops members, that is).
The only part of wikiloops which operates on a different licensing models is the private bands segment, which -as the name suggests- does not involve any public sharing.

Now, we are aiming to set you up with all the information needed to make an informed decision before joining the collaborations.
This is why we recommend you also have a look at the "Things to think about before granting a license: Which rights are you granting?"-article before posting any tracks to wikiloops.

back to top
Back to helpdesk
wikiloops online jamsessions are brought to you with friendly support by:
will_C from Germany

"Cheerz to the non-commercial site for music-lovers! "

wikiloops.com uses Cookies to provide you the best possible browsing experience.
Read more in our data privacy policy.