I get a lot of email suggesting that I list a bunch of free music licenses, each message containing an idea for a license. After much thought, I've decided to compile a page that summarises those ideas/licenses (or models of free distribution). I use the term "license" loosely, and this isn't legalese (fortunately). It is a license in that it tells people how much of the copyrights secured (granted) to you by Congress you're giving up. I don't believe in the concept of a "standard" license. I believe the world thrives on diversity and I am quite happy if there were as many free music licenses/models as there are window managers under Linux. Some models are more free than others and I've listed them in that order.
The term "work" or "this work" refers to the piece of creativity in question, and as you can see, many of these models can easily be generalised to other creative works as well. In general, "this work" refers to both sound recordings (distributed using CDs, tapes, WAV files, or mp3s) and musical compositions (sheet music, tablature, MIDI) and should be clarified accordingly.
A lot of these models were inspired by people sending e-mail to me and I've listed them in the credits page. I also have created a list of formal licenses.
This is the license/model under which I distribute all the works I create. This has no restrictions with regards to Section 106 of the Copyright code (Title 17). Example phrasing:
This work is freely copiable and usable without any copyright restrictions.
This work is in the public domain.
The two phrasings above mean the same in my mind, though "public domain" has a legal meaning related to copyright law which I wish to avoid, and so I prefer the former version. (See the exact wording used by TWISTED HELICES, my band, or even the one used by Zava.)
This could also be called the GNU GPL Copyleft style model. Generally this aims to reach the goals the unrestricted distribution model, but does so by first claiming all copyrights and then placing the primary restriction that the copies of work distributed under this model must be distributed under the same terms it was acquired. For example:
This work is freely copiable and usable without any copyright restrictions provided all subsequent copies and modifications (derivative works) contain this notice and are distributed under the same terms under which governed the distribution of the original copy.
Elaborate licenses have been created in support of this model, including the GNU GPL, the Open Content License, the Design Science License, and the EFF Open Audio License. Of course, not to be outdone, we have our very own Free Music Public License (FMPL).
Same as either of those two models, but places limits on commercial use and permits only noncommercial use. For example:
This work is freely copiable and usable without any copyright restrictions for noncommercial purposes only.
A variation of the above models would be to apply only to sound recordings or to musical compositions (the two forms of music protected by copyright). This is good for those who wish to control how their recordings sound, but don't want to abridge the freedom of "covering" a musical composition or creating a derivative work from it.