When you create or publish a music track (or any other kind) on SoundCloud, you can choose what kind of license to assign to it via the Metadata tab of the track file itself. Now, in the most basic terms, there are two possible choices here: you can make the track “All Rights Reserved” or opt to make it available under a Creative Commons License. To get more details about uploading and managing your tracks, you can visit the relevant section of SoundCloud’s Help Center at this link.
The “All Rights Reserved” type of license is fairly straightforward and self-explanatory. By selecting it, you are automatically granted copyright over the work that you create. Essentially, with this option, you put in a request that other SoundCloud creators (or those off the platform) not re-use your materials for their own purposes. It is quite convenient, since you do not require any separate publications of copyright for each track nor do you need to file any official requests with anyone.
But what about the Creative Commons license options?
In a nutshell, the Creative Commons licenses allow you to give up some of your exclusive rights that standard copyright grants you, and retain some others at the same time.
Most creators, would be terrified of this by default. The thing is, though, they do not need to be. There are six licenses to choose from, at different levels of restriction, so they give people different levels of freedom when using the content. To learn more about using them, go to this page: https://creativecommons.org/share-your-work/
What are the conditions on which the licenses are based?
Now, when you are selecting a Creative Commons license to assign to your tracks and creations, you are basically imposing some conditions and rules under which people can use what you decide to share with them. Here is a brief look at each of these conditions.
This condition is coded with BY in the license acronyms and it is the most basic one that all Creative Commons licenses share. It means that everyone who happens to use any of your work in any way has to credit you for it in the way in which you requested (for example, by backlinking to your online portfolio).
However, this must never be done in a way that would suggest that you endorse them their business, or their use of the given piece, that is, they must not imply that you are their sponsor or anything of the sort. If they want to make that kind of implication, or they want to skip crediting you altogether for whatever reason, they have to get your permission first.
This condition is coded with SA in the license acronyms. It allows other people to distribute, perform, copy, display, and modify your original works, but if they want to distribute these modifications, they have to do it under the exact same terms under which you shared the original work. If they want to change the terms, they need your permission first.
This condition is coded with NC in the license acronyms. It gives people pretty much the same freedoms with your pieces as the previous one. The one huge difference is that they are absolutely forbidden from sharing or using your work or any derivations from it for any kind of a commercial purpose. The only exception is if you explicitly give them permission. This can be a big deal if you are using SoundCloud to market your own business. You can check out the awesome blog from BuyPlaysFast SoundCloud service for some neat tips on that.
This condition is coded with ND in the license acronyms. With it, people can distribute, perform, display, or copy only your original work, but they are not allowed to edit it in any way nor derive new pieces from it. If they want to make any modification, they have to get your permission first.
Plus another two…
The above four conditions also constitute the four basic Creative Commons licenses that you can apply. In addition, there are two more “combined” options that are significantly more restrictive.
The Attribution – Non Commercial – Share Alike license allows people to change and build upon your work, as long as they use it non-commercially, credit you for it properly, and license whatever derived creation they come up with under identical terms.
The Attribution – Non Commercial – No Derivatives is the single most restrictive license out of all six. It allows people to download your works and share them with their friends, or anyone else, but they have to properly credit you, and they must not change them in any way whatsoever. They must also never use that material commercially.