Did you know that under USA copyright law, if you give your recording of a cover song away for free (either download or hard copy), you are liable to pay the copyright holder/publisher the statutory 9.1c copyright fee for every single copy you sell or give away ?
As per a quote from the IMRO website:
"Copyright is an intellectual property right. It allows the creators of original works to control how their work is used and to benefit financially from its use. Copyright in Ireland is regulated by statute (The Copyright and Related Rights Act 2000)."
If you live in Ireland, like myself, the copyright on your music will expire 70 years after your death. It will then go into the Public Domain, meaning anyone can record it in any way they please, with nothing owing to the original composer/publisher.
So if you cover a great hit which is not yet in the public domain, and it goes viral on YouTube, the copyright holder can, and usually will, get YouTube to 'monetize' the video with adverts, the proceeds of which will go to the original copyright holder. Alternatively, they can have the video removed without notification to yourself.
I recently read this short article on this subject on the cdbaby blog, 'The DIY Musician'. It details the rights and wrongs of copyright law when you record and release a cover song in the USA.
One thing I had not realised, is that even if you give the song away for free, you still owe the publisher/copyright holder the 9.1c (in the US) required by law for each download or hard copy created.
Click on the link below for more important details regarding recording and releasing cover songs in the USA.
The DIY Musician cdbaby blog: Cover song copyright in the USA