A musician in a new band posted some questions to the Spark Exchange that many new bands probably want to ask: How should they copyright their music? How can they use Creative Commons licences and still keep their marketing options open?
Because of the Creative Commons connection, Spark producer Dan Misener sent me a link to the forum and I was happy to provide this (lengthy) response. It may be helpful for more than that one band. Read the entire response here.
So, to sum up, your music is already copyrighted and it sounds like you own the copyright. You can write “(c) copyright 2010″ and that sort of thing on it if you want (although doing that doesn’t create the copyright at all — it’s just there to let people know). Then you should decide how freely you want to allow other people to use your work. If you want to hold onto all of the rights, you can say the work is “all rights reserved”; if you want to use a CC licence to give people some freedoms with your music, you can say “Some rights reserved. Licensed under a CC Attribution NonCommercial NoDerivatives licence” (or whatever you choose). There are no magic words. Be clear and you don’t need to get too hung up about it.
Finally, I would fully support what Bob Jonkman says above about the benefits of giving your music away, the unlikelihood of being paid by SOCAN either way, and the value of reading Techdirt’s “CwF + RtB” material. I also think David Byrne’s 2007 article in Wired should be required reading. You’re a new band in the age of zero cost distribution so it makes little sense for your business plan to be based on charging people to get your music. You may be better off giving away the recordings so more people hear it and turning that potentially larger fan base into money coming directly to you rather than to a record label (from which you may never get a cent if you’re not popular enough — see that brilliant David Byrne article).