ArtlawTV: Ben White and Eileen Simpson on A Cultural Commons

A Cultural Commons – alternative approaches to copyright and the distribution of material

Ben White and Eileen Simpson created the Open Music Archive to distribute music that no longer has copyright protection. Their project looks at ways you can distribute your work but still control some of it’s uses.


Eileen Simpson and Ben White work at the intersection of art, music and information networks. Their projects are situated within the current discourse surrounding the  porting of Free/Libre and Open Source software models to wider creative contexts.  They seek to challenge conventional mechanisms for the authorship, ownership and distribution of culture – particularly through working with archive material.

Their ongoing project Open Music Archive is a collaborative initiative to source, digitise and distribute out-of-copyright sound recordings. The project collects works that are not owned by any one individual but held in common. The archive forms a site of exchange of material and is a vehicle for future collaborations and projects.

Recent projects include: Parallel Anthology for 17th Biennale of Sydney; Struggle in Jerash at Gasworks, London, The Brilliant and The Dark at The Women’s Library, London; and Free-to-air at ICA, London and Cornerhouse, Manchester.

Their new film project Auditory Learning explores archive material and the tensions surrounding the multiple rights embedded within audio recordings. The project is in development with support from FLAMIN and MIRIAD.

Artists: Eileen Simpson and Ben White
Art lawyer: Henry Lydiate
Camera: Donald Bousted
Sound: Christian Burnett
Post production: Best Bits Media
Written and produced by: Lubna Gem Arielle
Commissioned by Artquest

Filmed at the English Folk Dance and Song Society

Still need help? Contact us

Similar Artlaw articles

Related articles / resources

Featured project


The awardees for Adaptations 2021 are Emma Edmonson and Lu Williams (Dog Ear), Libby Heaney and Tamara Stoll Emma Edmonson and Lu Williams (Dog Ear) This slideshow requires JavaScript. Lu Williams cre… Continue Reading Adaptations

Read more


This article is from the Artlaw Archive of Henry Lydiate's columns published in Art Monthly since 1976, and may contain out of date material. The article is for information only, and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. Readers should consult a solicitor for legal advice on specific matters. Artists can get free online legal information from Artquest.