The Audio Commons Initiative

The Audio Commons Initiative aims at bringing Creative Commons audio content to the creative industries. But what does this mean? We realise that significant amounts of user-generated audio content, such as sound effects, field recordings, musical samples and music pieces (among others), are uploaded to online repositories and made available under Creative Commons licenses. Furthermore, a constantly increasing amount of multimedia content, originally released with traditional copyright licenses, is becoming public domain as its copyright expires. However, we believe that the professional creative industries (e.g. videogames, film and music industries) are not yet using much of all this content in their media productions.

There are a number of reasons why such content is not yet extensively used in the professional sector. We think that a major one is the lack of a shared culture within the creative industries of open content and its potential use. But there are also technical and practical issues that do not facilitate this usage. Despite the amount of Creative Commons audio content available in online repositories such as Jamendo or Freesound, other potentially useful content remains scattered around the web (if available at all) and typically not properly labeled with specific licenses or reachable through search engines. Also, the nature of this content, coming from a variety of sources and from authors with different levels of expertise, results in unstructured (or not uniformly structured) mass of resources, limiting its potential retrieval and reuse possibilities. Moreover, no tools are easily available to search and incorporate Creative Commons audio content in the production workflows of the creative industries.

The Audio Commons Initiative is therefore aimed at promoting the use of open audio content and at developing technologies with which to support an envisioned ecosystem of content repositories, production tools and users (the Audio Commons Ecosystem). These technologies should enable the reuse of this audio material, facilitating its integration in the production workflows of the creative industries.

The Audio Commons consortium is formed by leading research institutes in sound and music computing and key players in the creative industries. You’ll find more information about us in the team section. Do you want to be updated on the progress of the initiative? Please feel free to subscribe to our mailing list or follow us on Twitter at @AudioCommons.

The Audio Commons Ecosystem

We envision a technology supported ecosystem of content, users and tools that should facilitate the reuse of Creative Commons audio content in the professional sector and, by extension, in the independent or non-professional sectors too. We call this the Audio Commons Ecosystem (or ACE). In short, the Audio Commons Ecosystem will allow content creators to expose their Creative Commons audio content to content users in the creative industries, and provide ways for its seamless integration in creative workflows. The figure below shows a conceptual diagram of the different components that will be interconnected in our vision of the ACE.

The Audio Commons Ecosystem

As it can be seen in the diagram, audio content created by the content creators will be exposed in the ACE through a number of content providers. Content providers will host that content and publish it following a common metadata specification as defined by an audio ontology (the Audio Commons ontology), and make it available to content users through embeddable tools (e.g.,~audio plug-ins) developed by tool developers. Content providers will be able to communicate with the embeddable tools through a unified API specification (the Audio Commons API specification) which will not only manage information about audio content and retrieval but also will handle licensing procedures between content creators and content users. Furthermore, because of the nature of Creative Commons licenses, content users will also be able to become content creators by feeding back derivative or new content to the ecosystem. The procedures for publishing and consuming content, as well as the tools for annotating content and the ontology and API specifications, will be open and made available to the public and to potential new actors willing to join the ecosystem.

The technologies needed to support this ecosystem will be developed within the AudioCommons project, including some embeddable tools developed by industrial partners of the consortium. However, most of the components to support such an ecosystem do in fact already exist in a form or another. There already exist sound sharing platforms such as Jamendo, Freesound, cc-Mixter (potential Audio Commons content providers) and others that host Creative Commons audio content and that have APIs through which it can be retrieved by third-party applications. There exist a number of tools for annotating audio content (some supported by the members of the consortium), and there exist some tools for the creative industries which integrate Creative Commons content from online platforms such as Ardour, a digital audio workstation which can directly retrieve content from Freesound. The ecosystem that we want to support will therefore be rooted in existing and successful technologies.

Research Topics

In order to make Creative Commons audio content reusable in the creative industries there are some clearly defined issues that can be faced through the research and development of new technologies and improvement of existing ones. The Audio Commons Initiative, as a supported research and innovation action, will devote a special emphasis on researching about the following topics:

  • Intellectual property and business models: commonly understood frameworks for publishing and master rights to particular audio and music recordings will be challenged within the ACE’s framework, and we will research on making those challenges understandable, and ultimately, useful for the industry. In the first instance, this will involve understanding the rights management requirements in a high-reuse scenario such as the one we envision, and usage recommendations made as necessary. Research into emerging business models possibly created by ACE interaction with publishers/creators/consumers will also be carried out.

  • Audio Ontologies: an important part of the research in Audio Commons will be focused on defining an ontology for the unified annotation of audio content able to allow proper representation and retrieval of content in different use cases of the creative industries. We will ground the design of the ontology in requirements collected from the industry and extend existing work on multimedia semantic representation. The concepts of the ontology will serve as a guide for the semantic audio annotation technologies that will be further developed.

  • Semantic description of audio content: we will work on improving the state-of-the-art in sound and music description and semantic representation technologies. We will focus our research on aspects that have been usually overlooked in existing literature (such as the development of descriptors targeted to short music samples). Also, we will stress the development of reliable high-level semantic descriptors with the use of bigger and crowd-sourced datasets. We will on the one side focus on the description of music content (i.e. music pieces and music samples), and on the other side focus on the description of non-musical content such as sound effects.


The Audio Commons Initiative is funded by the European Commission through the Horizon 2020 programme, research and innovation grant 688382.

European Comission