Home Database of Choral Music for Justice

What is Creative Commons?

The key to the Justice Choir movement's success will be accessibility and wide distribution, so we won't be using the traditional "All Rights Reserved" copyright. Instead, the Songbook will be released under a more lenient "Some Rights Reserved" license called Creative Commons.

Creative Commons is a non-profit organization devoted to expanding the range of creative works available for others to build upon and to share legally.

There are many different types of Creative Commons licenses, but we're going to release our first volume (at least) under their most restrictive license: the "Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International" license.

This license allows anyone to download, distribute, perform from, and freely share the Songbook (or songs from the songbook) for non-commercial purposes -- as long as they give the author(s) attribution. As the songwriter, you will retain your right to authorize (and charge for) any commercial uses of your song, as well as any derivative works of your song (i.e. arrangements).

Songwriters: If you expect that someday you might want to publish the sheet music of your song with a traditional publisher (to get checks for any for-profit use: sheet music sales, lyric reprints, or other replication/duplication), then this project might not be for you. Our goal with this Songbook is to eliminate every barrier of entry for singers all over the world, so they can sing and share the music legally, without having to pay additional fees or ask your permission.

Here are more detailed answers:

  Who will own my song?
This is important: You will still own most of it. What you don't own, no one will own. The Creative Commons license is your way of giving away some of your ownership of it to the world so it can be freely distributed. This means Justice Choir won't own it either. We will simply take up and distribute that part of it which you've given to the world.
  Is Justice Choir's license exclusive? (click to view)
No. This is a non-exclusive license. If you wanted to, you could make your song available anywhere under this same license (or something even more lenient). However, you cannot release it with a traditional copyright once it is released under a Creative Commons license. (In other words, you can always make your license less restrictive, but you can't make it more restrictive.)
  Will other people be allowed to arrange my song? (click to view)
No. Not without obtaining your permission. All derivative uses will still be controlled by you.
  Will other people be allowed to publish my song and profit from it? (click to view)
No. Not without obtaining your permission. All commercial uses will still be controlled by you.
  Will other people be allowed to record my song? (click to view)
YES. Under this license, people may make audio recordings of your song and publicly share them, but only for non-commercial use. For commercial uses, or to distribute a video of your song, they will have to contact you for permission.
  Can I arrange my own song, and submit that arrangement to a traditional publisher (or publish it myself)? (click to view)
YES, as long as your arrangement is different enough from the Creative Commons version to be considered an adaptation, or "derivative work" -- for example, if you add a written accompaniment, or arrange it for a different voicing or instrumentation, etc -- then you can copyright it and submit it to publishers.
  Can I use Creative Commons if I'm a member of a Performance Rights Organization (ASCAP, BMI)? (click to view)
YES. They don't particularly like it, but it is part of ASCAP's Bill of Rights: "We have the right to choose when and where our creative works may be used for free." / “We have the right to license our works and control the ways in which they are used.” Plus, your PRO will continue to license and pay you for your commercial performances (radio play, bars, coffee shops, etc), so please do list it in your catalog with them.
  If I release my song under Creative Commons, should I still register it with the US Copyright Office? (click to view)
YES. Registering your song with the U.S. Copyright Office is the surest way to prove authorship (and date of authorship) in court. So if someone were to (god forbid!) try to claim your song as their own, or sue you for copyright infringement, you would need to rely on your official copyright registration.
  Is Justice Choir going to be the publisher of my song? (click to view)
No. If your song is accepted into the Justice Choir Songbook, we will simply be distributing your song with your permission (and so will our website visitors). Your Creative Commons license will be in your name, listed just underneath your song. If people want to license your song for commercial use, they will need to contact you directly. Justice Choir will happily forward any inquiries on to you, if we receive them.
  This is awesome! Why aren't more people releasing sheet music this way? (click to view)
We don't know! Software developers and news agencies have used Creative Commons for decades. It breeds innovation and a spirit of generosity. Read about its founder, Lawrence Lessig.