I write music and want to release songs and own them, but copyrighting individually is expensive. I only want people to be able to use and cover my music if they'll credit me prefferably only with my permission. Would creative commons cover that? If not is there a site I could use to get free copyrights?
2 Answers from Attorneys
It shouldn't be that expensive. It isn't so difficult that you can't do it yourself. If you go to www.copyright.gov you can set up your own account to do an electronic filing for $35. Or you can get the filing form and mail it in for $65. If you have questions, go to the home page and there is a wealth of information and tutorials. Just go there and take a look and you'll see that it isn't something you should be afraid of. Keep 2 things in mind. First, if you do make a mistake, you can always file a form CA and correct it. Granted, the filing fee is presently $100, but most of us charge you more than that per hour. Second, you can file more than 1 song under the same filing. Instead of filing individual songs, you can file several songs together as a single "album". The single copyright covers not only the "album", but every discrete element of the work, which in this case is each song. The proof that the song is filed will be the copy of the album you deposit with the Copyright Office. Just be sure, for your own sake, to keep a good filing system at your home so you can easily keep track of which songs are on the album you file.
Bradley Rosen has answered the registration part of your question. You also asked, "I only want people to be able to use and cover my music if they'll credit me prefferably only with my permission. Would creative commons cover that?"
Keep in mind that there is a "compulsory license" for covers. See 17 U.S.C. § 115, at http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/17/115. So, even without your permission, anyone can cover your song if they comply with the legal requirements and pay you the statutory rate. But that can be a hassle for some, and you are certainly free to offer a better deal. You can use the Creative Commons formulation of your choice, or "roll your own" by simply stating the terms of your offer. If you are trying to encourage the cover, you will want to make it clear enough that potential licensees will feel confident that you won't turn around and sue them for missing "the fine print" or something.
The advantage of using a Creative Commons license is that some smart people with legal training have thought it through with the objective of making it something both parties can feel confident using. If you just say "you may cover the song at no charge so long as you credit me, preferably with my permission" it might be too ambiguous to take a risk, since statutory damages are ridiculously high. If you want to retain the right to give or deny permission on a case-by-case basis, you could simply provide contact information with a statement to the effect that you invite anyone to contact you to seek permission to cover your song at no charge in exchange for crediting you, and then work out the details with each one.
Also keep in mind that these comments are no substitute for legal advice on your specific situation, and I am not your lawyer.
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