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Donum Mundus

January 27, 2006

Here’s an excerpt from a GREAT article from the man that brought us the clumsy fly and certain questions for heaven.


I have introduced a new clause (or provision) into my label contracts called the Donum Mundus Provision, which will serve as an example to artists, labels, publishers, and others in the music industry. I insisted on this new legal language in order to call attention to the concept. Here’s the concept behind the provision: In an exclusive recording or publishing agreement, a writer or artist is giving up his/her right to compose or record any work for anyone other than that publisher or label. There is nothing wrong with an agreement like this. But in order to reserve the freedom to create something outside of that contract, for no other reason than to beautify the world, a Donum Mundus clause provides the artist/writer with an exception to the exclusivity. An exception of one song per period, or one song per record, (or any terms agreeable to both parties) that the artist/writer may write or record one of his works to GIVE AWAY, without obligation to the label or the publisher, and without compensation of any kind to himself. Simply as a GIFT TO THE WORLD (DONUM MUNDUS).

This is essentially accomplished by declaring the song, at its creation, a PUBLIC DOMAIN work. That work is therefore free to be used by anyone, anywhere. It is still copyrighted to the composer/author, but no compensation is sought. It is a gift to the world–a concept that has been lost in the shuffle of intellectual property rights.

I still believe in intellectual property rights. I simply want to reserve for myself and other artists the ability to create something, outside of the confines of an exclusive contract, that I can offer to the world as a free gift, no strings attached.

Ok, so maybe giving away music doesn’t eliminate the problem with illegal downloading. But it does remind me that I don’t have to demand my rightful claim to financial compensation for everything I create. I can write and sing a song for no other reason than to give it to the world. To simply add beauty without expecting anything in return. It doesn’t change the industry’s problem, but it changes ME. And it gives an example to other artists.

Here’s where I am with this. This provision is already in my contracts. The legal language, Donum Mundus, has now officially been used in an agreement for the first time in history. A precedent has been set. I will work on explaining this concept better. I will soon be making a bigger deal about it. I will be drawing more attention to it in the near future. I will encourage artists to insist on this one small freedom when they hash out agreements with labels and publishers. I will encourage labels and entertainment attorneys to make this a standard part of every contract in the future. If the idea catches on, maybe we’ll all be just a little more aware of music’s original purpose.

Could make the world a better place.

We’ll see.

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