Frequently Asked Questions

Questions from Listeners

Is the music on this site free?
No. The rights-holders get paid every time a song is downloaded. Royalties come out of a combination of membership fees and other income (like advertising and sales commissions). If there's enough other income to cover royalties, members get some or all of their membership fees rebated. But somebody is paying for it.
But there's a penguin on your site! Doesn't that mean the songs are open source and I can do anything I want with them?
Which part of ``no'' didn't you understand? The software (on is open source (and hence free). Musicians like to get paid, even if it's not very much. The penguin is also the mascot of the Linux community, and we like to think of PenguinSong as a community of musicians. There are a lot of similarities.
Why are you using this wacko Ogg Vorbis format instead of good old MP3?
MP3 isn't free. There's a patent on it, and depending on the whims of the patent holder you might just get stuck paying a fee every time you encode a song in MP3. Ogg Vorbis is free, and it gives better compression, too.
Are your files copy-protected?
We call it ``use-restricted'', and the answer is NO. You can make as many copies as you want for your own personal use.
Does that mean I can download songs and give copies to my friends?
Well, yes, but we'd rather you gave them a URL instead. If you give them a URL, that encourages them to become members (which gives you a referral bonus). Besides, URL's take a lot less bandwidth and are easier to remember.
Does it mean I can download songs, burn them onto CD's, and sell them without paying royalties?
HECK NO! Don't even think about it! Do it, and the songwriters and performers will sue you for copyright infringement. We'll help. On the other hand, if you pay royalties and clear it with all the rights-holders, we'll even help you sell them.
How about putting songs on my website?
If you want to put links to a PenguinSong song page on your website, go right ahead! If you want to download a copy and put that on your site, yes but only if you pay royalties through BMI or ASCAP -- and even then we'd rather you didn't. Besides, linking uses less of your precious space.
What if they're my own songs?
That's different, of course. But we pay royalties.

Questions about Membership

Do I have to become a member?
No. Of course, if you don't you'll (eventually) see some ads, you'll get far fewer free downloads, and you won't be able to contribute.
Do I have to become a paid subscriber?
No. Subscribers get a lot more options for customizing their pages, though, and lots more downloads.

Questions from Musicians

I see a penguin on your site. Does that mean I have to put my songs under GPL?
Of course not. The software (on is free. You get paid for your music.
So why the penguin?
  1. the software is free
  2. we're aiming for a community sort of like the Linux developer/user community
  3. it's memorable
  4. the penguin images look cool on T-shirts.
What license do you use?
We don't. It's plain, ordinary copyright. Someone downloading your song gets no rights in it other than fair use. Songwriters get paid at the statutory rate for mechanical licenses.
What does your contract look like?
[not written yet] -- it's basically a non-exclusive contract for distribution. We put your stuff up for download. You get paid. The main unusual points are these:
What if there's just one version or one performance I don't like?
You have two options for anything that uses one of your songs. You can deprecate it, or you can ban it. If you deprecate it, people can still get to it but they'll see your deprecation notice, too. It just means that you don't like it, and you can say why if you want to. If you ban it, all they see is your notice -- but you have to explain it, and the other party can comment.
If I ban something can they still post the lyrics?
Yes. Parodies and lyrics ``to the tune of'' other songs are protected free speech. [=== need citation ===] But you can prevent them from recording their version if it uses your music and isn't a ``real'' parody, i.e. one that comments on the original.
Can I post my music somewhere else, too?
Of course: it's a non-exclusive contract. We'll even let you put links to other sites on your song pages -- in fact we want you to. Just don't expect us to pay you for downloads from somewhere else.
If there aren't use restrictions on my music, isn't that encouraging piracy?
Not at all. If somebody takes your music, burns it onto a CD, and sells it, or puts it on their own web site, that's copyright infringement and you can sue them for it. We'll help. On the other hand, if somebody wanted to copy your CD they could just buy one and dup it -- happens all the time. What the lack of use restrictions is encouraging is people becoming members because they can do more, for their own private use, with unrestricted files than with restricted ones.
How else do you discourage piracy?
Mainly by encouraging members to pass URL's to their friends instead of copies of songs. URL's are small and easily e-mailed. The friend can download a few songs for free, but in order to do it they'll have to register -- then we've got them hooked.
Can I sell my CD's and T-shirts on your site?
By all means! We'll charge you a commission, which gets applied to song royalties, but it's probably less than what most retailers would charge you, never mind selling through a distributor.

Questions About the Site

Where do lyrics and sheet music go?
Under the songwriter's page in /c/. Of course, every song page is cross-referenced to every album and track that it's on.
Where do performances (tracks) go?
Under the performer's page in /p/. Of course, every track is linked to both the corresponding song page and the album page (if it exists, of course -- nothing keeps you from posting an unreleased track).
Where do albums (CDs, tapes) go?
Under the publisher's page in /t/. Of course, every songwriter and every performer has a ``discography'' list that points to all of the albums they have tracks on.