Copyright is the name given to the set of rights that a creator possesses with respect to their creative "work." In the United States, copyright vests in the author of a work immediately upon creation. Once a work is created, the creator is the exclusive owner of the the copyright -- the rights to copy, distribute, make derivative works of the work, etc. Nobody has the right to do these things with a work except the author and copyright owner.
What is a license?
A license is a legal document which grants certain rights in a creative work to another party. As an example, Microsoft owns the copyright to its Microsoft Word program. However, it licenses others to use copies of the program on their personal computers.
A license describes what rights you have in a copyrighted work, and it also sets limitations on those rights. In the case of Microsoft, you can run the copyrighted work on your computer (which involves making copies of it in your memory or hard drive), but you can't make additional copies and sell them to others, you can't make multiple copies for multiple computers, etc.
On MacJams.com, we require that all artists who submit songs to the site license others to listen to and download the songs. Starting now, we are requiring anyone who submits a song to license it to listeners or downloaders under a Creative Commons license. We do this so that those who listen to (and therefore necessarily copy) songs from the MacJams.com site have a clear legal right to do so. We also do this so that authors of songs can be clear about the rights they retain in the songs they submit to the MacJams.com site. Licensing works with a Creative Commons license makes everybody's rights very clear and protects everyone.
What is a Creative Commons license?
Creative Commons is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to helping creators of artistic works protect their rights while allowing others to use those works for various purposes. Creative Commons is run by people at Stanford Law School, Harvard Law School, and other leading legal institutions.
Creative Commons has created a set of licenses that others can use to license their creative works. All Creative Commons licenses say that creative works licensed under them may be copied and distributed by others. In addition, you can select additional terms and conditions that apply to others' use of your creative works. Our newly released song submission system makes picking your license terms very easy. You simply select "yes" or "no" to each of the available options and you're set.
What are the options I can choose with a Creative Commons license?
Once again, all Creative Commons licenses allow others to copy and use your creative work. From there, the resctrictions you can place in your license are: (1) you can require others to attribute the song's authorship to you, (2) you can prohibit or allow commercial use of the work, and (3) you can prohibit or allow modifications of the work, for example, adding new instruments or re-mixing the song.
You can read about each of these options at the Creative Commons page. Be sure that you understand what each of the license options means for your works.
How can I learn more about this topic?
Because Creative Commons has done such a great job in explaining many of the concepts described in this article, it would be redundant for us to do so again. Rather, we direct our users to Creative Commons' excellent website for further information. In particular, you may find the following links helpful:
- Get Creative Movie. An interactive, 5-minute long Flash movie explaining the goals and purpose of Creative Commons.
- Choosing a License. This page helps you choose a Creative Commons license to your liking. We've implemented the functionality of this selection process right in our song submission page, so you can also get help there.
- Legal concepts. This page has information on the legal concepts behind Creative Commons and other "open" licensing.
- Creative Commons Musicians' Artists Corner. This page has a plethora of information and links to information on Creative Commons licensing directed toward musical artists (that's you!).
That's a wrap!
Stay tuned for some more great updates to MacJams.com, and feel free to discuss our new Creative Commons licensing requirement in our discussion forums.
And, of course, keep on jammin!