CBC agreement with talent agency prohibits use of Creative Commons music

According to a comment from a CBC producer on a message board, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation has banned the use of Creative Commons licensed music from its podcasts. Apparently, this goes "against some of the details in collective agreements [the CBC] hold with certain talent agencies."
In other words, groups are actively working to block the use of Creative Commons licenced alternatives in their contractual language. It is enormously problematic to learn that our public broadcaster is blocked from using music alternatives that the creators want to make readily available. The CBC obviously isn't required to use Creative Commons licenced music, but this highlights an instance where at least one of its programs wants to use it and groups that purport to support artists' right to choose the rights associated with their work is trying to stop them from doing so.
CBC Bans Use of Creative Commons Music on Podcasts


  1. I used to be a defender of the CBC being funded by taxes. With this kowtowing to the music industry, I feel they no longer deserve that privilege.

  2. I feel a complaint letter coming on. It is a real shame because I first learned about creative commons music by hearing it used on CBC.

  3. Hey now, we’re just protecting the Artists.

    By not letting you hear them.

    Shut up and give us money.

  4. A little background on this:

    Three years ago, both Spark and Search Engine launched on CBC Radio One. Both shows had been pitched as multi-platform efforts where the radio show, podcast, and blog would be equally important.

    But the problem was that at the time, no CBC podcast could use ANY music at all. The CBC’s commercial music license only covered broadcast rights, not digital rights. So existing CBC shows were stripped of all music but their theme songs before they became podcasts.

    This was awful, and not just because it meant that CBC podcasts contained weird awkward gaps where music had been removed. It also meant that any show lacking the extra resources it took to make a stripped-down “podsafe” version simply did not have a podcast. This was true of the majority of CBC programs.

    My team at Search Engine, simultaneously with our colleagues at Spark, proposed a solution: Creative Commons music. We had to go through a lot of red tape, but we did it. Not only were our shows now the same online as on the air, but other shows followed suit, and today the CBC offers most (but not all) of its fare as podcasts.

    When Search Engine was cancelled by the CBC, I took some solace in the fact that we had left behind this positive change at the CBC. It really bums me out to see this regression.

  5. The excellent Quirks & Quarks show on CBC has been using a creative commons track as their theme music for the past couple of years. (And have been making their shows available for download for a lot longer than that.) I wonder what’s going to happen to it now? Does this mean the artist will get a separate paid license? Perhaps they already are since it’s by-nc-nd?

  6. For the past 3 seasons, CBC’s Spark has been more than just an outstanding tech/culture program, but also an incredible resource for discovering cool Creative Commons music. Creative Commons music fit with Spark’s mission, so I imagine they’re just as upset as we all are that they will instead they’re drawing from a cookie-cutter stock music repository http://www.apmmusic.com/featured-albums/n/nfl/reality-check

    Producer Dan Misener did a guest post/mix for the Free Music Archive earlier this year, where he picked out some of the awesome Creative Commons music they’ve featured on the program:


  7. it really seems like cbc has been driving themselves into the ground the last few years, as if on purpose. i fear that they’re doing this so that no one will complain when they get axed completely. and to be frank as a once long time listener i probably won’t either.

  8. Basically, they don’t get a cut if the shows use Creative Commons licensed music. You’d think that CBC would choose the cheaper option- the Creative Commons- than kneeling before the demands of someone who only wants to charge you more money.

  9. I’m pretty sure making a vendor sign an agreement which limits their rights to use your competitors’ products violates some anti-competition laws…

    IE: This contract is null and void if it contains such a clause.


  10. I would much rather get rid of the bad-apple talent agency making that stink than to give up freedom to use content that costs less of my tax dollars, and is often better anyway.

    Drop all those with the greedy contracts until they remove the policies.
    If they can’t handle it, we don’t need them.

  11. At one time the CBC was a valuable national asset. Those days have long gone. While a number of shows are notable exceptions, the once high broadcast standards at CBC have deteriorated dramatically.
    The hacks at CBC News are biased and colour news with opinion and speculation. While their predecessors provided intelligent and insightful coverage of important news, they increasingly cover celebrity/human interest/style/controversy “news”.
    Without a complete overhaul, this organization no longer deserves our tax money.

    1. Wow, your name is appropriate: living there, that’s really how most of Alberta thinks. Of course an election map will show you that “bias” in Alberta is not the same thing as the rest of the country.

  12. The discussion in the comments for the original Spark post is a bit ambiguous. At one point, Lily Mills says that it’s down to agreements with talent agencies, in another post, she says a collective agreement with talent unions.

  13. The Creative Commons licenses are great but they’re not perfect. One of the biggest problems is the way that people toss them around without knowing what they’re doing. There was a big spat between Virgin and some photographer who used a CC license that allowed commercial use. Ooops. He claimed that he didn’t know what he was doing and he sued both Virgin and the Creative Commons. The woman in the picture also sued.

    More from the CC perspective:


    This may be too overly cautious but ruling out CC licenses is one way to up the odds that the license will be executed by professionals who know what they’re doing. Nothing is perfect. I’ve seen disputes between professionals. But the Virgin suit made me really wonder about using CC material beyond some non-commercial blogs. People don’t know what they’re doing and they’re not executing these things correctly. There are people claiming that their photos are licensed for commercial purposes without getting model release forms.

    (And I think BB continues to flirt with danger by using copyrighted images. The CC stuff is probably fine, but using uncredited things from the BBC is pretty sleezy. I’m sure that this picture wasn’t taken by Cory, Xeni or anyone else.



  14. What this means in plain english is:

    If you are an artist who thinks the 1911 Berne copyright act is a little outdated and feel that a creative commons license better serves your music for the digital world…well CBC ain’t gonna play it!

    Whats next, Parliament is going to make creative commons illegal?

    This is a direct attack to freedom. Freedom of Choice eh!

  15. We’ve been listening to the conversations today regarding a “ban” on the use of Creative Commons music in our podcasts and want to take the opportunity to clarify some of the misconceptions that are floating out there.

    The CBC has always embraced new ways of creating and sharing the content we make (in fact, shows like Spark and previously Search Engine were some of the first in Canada to use this type of music license in their programming), however, just like you, we must do so in a way which respects the limits put on that use by the music’s creators.

    The issue with our use of Creative Commons music is that a lot of our content is readily available on a multitude of platforms, some of which are deemed to be “commercial” in nature (e.g. streaming with pre-roll ads, or pay for download on iTunes) and currently the vast majority of the music available under a Creative Commons license prohibits commercial use.

    In order to ensure that we continue to be in line with current Canadian copyright laws, and given the lack of a wide range of music that has a Creative Commons license allowing for commercial use, we made a decision to use music from our production library in our podcasts as this music has the proper usage rights attached.

    Everyone can rest easy– there are no “groups” setting out to stop the use of Creative Commons music at the CBC, and we will continue to use Creative Commons licensed music, pictures etc. across a number of our non-commercial platforms.

    We hope this helps clarify things.


    Chris Boyce
    Programming Director.
    CBC Radio.

    1. Hi Chris,

      The concern with CC-NC-licensed content is entirely reasonable. If there’s no issue with rightsholding groups, will CC-BY licensed music continue to be allowed?



    2. Chris, this just doesn’t make any sense.

      There are several CC licenses that unambiguously permit commercial use. The easy way to tell if commercial use is allowed is to look and see whether the license has “NC” or “NonCommercial” in its name. If it does not, commercial use is permitted, without limitation, period. I can’t understand why you would need to lay on extra personnel to look and see whether the copyright field in an MP3 or on the web-page says “NC” or not. Especially given that The Spark and other podcasts (including Quirks and Quarks) had already figured out how to do this. If you can figure out how to produce a radio show, you can figure out how to read a CC license. It is the essence of trivial.

      I would also like some clarification: A Spark producer wrote that CBC had entered into an agreement with a rights group that prohibited the use of CC. Are you saying that no such agreement exists?



  16. Hypatia, the problem is that there are just so dang many CC licenses, using CC content at all would require the CBC to commit extra time and personnel (and money to pay the personnel) just to evaluate each CC use individually to find out if it was a commercially-licensed use or not. Given the choice between having to spend extra money to allow some CC-licensed works, and allowing no CC-licensed works at all and saving that money, is it really any wonder the CBC came down against all Creative Commons material?

  17. Sounds like Mr. Chris Boyce is part of a ‘group’ at the CBC that has zero understanding of Creative Commons music and is pulling it out of podcasts based on a completely inaccurate view its range of licences. Either that or the Spark producer was correct and therefore, Boyce is lying.

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