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#1 siddharth diwan

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Posted 08 July 2005 - 08:56 AM

i need to put a lto of music in my film for which initially i had a budget to get it composed but some things went wrong n now i have to use popular music.
what i need to know about is the copyright laws applicable incase of music.

can i use music composed by other artists?

how much duration can i use?

remember where no money is involved.

thanks a lot
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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 08 July 2005 - 09:50 AM

can i use music composed by other artists?

remember where no money is involved.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


No, you can't, especially not for any commercial work that you might sell and make a profit from. Something not for profit that won't be sold and won't be shown publically on a large scale, then odds are low that someone would sue you for it. For example, many of us use copyrighted music for demo reels, which is not technically legal but odds are very low some record company or recording artists would go after someone for it because it wouldn't be worth the court costs.

You either need to find music in the public domain or compose your own or buy the rights to use the copyrighted music (not cheap.)
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#3 Richard Boddington

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Posted 08 July 2005 - 10:01 AM

"For example, many of us use copyrighted music for demo reels, which is not technically legal but odds are very low some record company or recording artists would go after someone for it because it wouldn't be worth the court costs."

David,

This point has been raised before, are you sure it's a good idea if you work professionally in the entertainment biz and you're based in LA where a lot of the record companies are?

Aren't the odds that one of these bottom feeding record company people may see your reel actually kind of high if you're doing top end stuff?

Just curious, maybe it's never been an issue. And I agree with your point about the hassel and court costs etc etc.

I know I have stated my liberal views on shooting buildings etc with no paper work from the owner of the building, but in that case the shot is at least my own personal work, no one can take that point away from me. But when it comes to using copy righted music I stay well clear of that for any purpose. I won't even put commercial music on a friends wedding video.

The reason is that I have a business, which to a slime ball infested record company, looks like a target to send their lawyers after. So I never take that chance and give them the opportunity.

R,
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#4 Gordon Highland

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Posted 08 July 2005 - 10:05 AM

No, you can't use anything copyrighted. Doesn't matter if it's for money or not, or how little you use. I once had to pay $1500 to license a Gloria Estefan song for a non-profit United Way video! If you didn't write the cue yourself, you gotta get it cleared thorugh their publishing company, and this nearly always involves a significant amount of money. Remember, popular music conjures up mental associations for people, and that's worth money.

Your best bet is to look into "royalty-free" music, where you pay a small amount of money for canned, non-exclusive music that is not commercially recognizable. You can get a whole CD of stuff for like 60 bucks, but you'd need several of them. Or you can pay "needle-drop" per song. Using a popular song will be prohibitively expensive, likely much more than you'd ever pay your composer, and then consider that you need a whole bunch of those. . . Bad idea. Find a composer to work cheaper, or go with stock.

I worked with another company one time at a hotel ballroom gig, and they played back a video montage that was synched to a known song, and they got hit for like $6000 because someone reported them to ASCAP or BMI.
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#5 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 08 July 2005 - 10:09 AM

Well, I don't really feel comfortable suggesting that someone break the law, but the truth is that I've never heard of a DP being sued for using copyrighted music in a demo reel. If you are making wedding videos professionally (not in your example since it was for a friend), that's a little different because then you are selling a product incorporating material you don't have the rights for.

But yes, the safest thing is to avoid copyrighted music completely.

On a side note, at the American Cinemateque, I saw this documentary on Los Angeles as portrayed in movies called "Los Angeles Plays Itself", made by one of my former professors at CalArts. I'm sure it was cobbled together from the huge DVD and laserdisc collection that he owns and there's no way he got permission from the owners of the hundreds of movies he shows clips from, so there will be a limit to ever selling the documentary because then he'd have to clear all of that material.
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#6 Robert Edge

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Posted 08 July 2005 - 10:33 AM

can i use music composed by other artists?

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


There is a distinction between a composition and a performance of a composition.

You can use the music of a composer if the music is in the public domain. This covers a great deal of classical music as well as many traditional tunes. For example, you have a legal right to use one of Beethoven's sonatas or one of John Dowland's folk songs, in whole or in part.

However, you cannot use Alfred Brendel's recording of a Beethoven sonato or Andreas Scholl's recording of a Downland song unless you get permission.

If you want to use a piece of music and a performance that are both copyrighted, you need to get permission from both the composer and the performer.

In your case, one possible solution is to use a composition that is in the public domaine but have it recorded by a local musician. Given the degree to which popular music is based on classical music, and in many cases pretty much rips it off, you'd be amazed at the possibilities.

You can read further about licensing on the ASCAP and BMI sites. Note that these organizations do not represent all music or musicians, including some very important artists like Duke Ellington.

Richard,
Your views about shooting the exterior of buildings are not liberal. They are simply correct, and correct beyond any doubt whatsoever.
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#7 Robert Edge

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Posted 08 July 2005 - 11:02 AM

To get a sense of how music licensing works, you might find also it helpful to look at Cherry Lane Music's website, especially their sections on roster and licensing: www.cherrylane.com
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#8 timHealy

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Posted 08 July 2005 - 11:03 AM

Sid are you a student?

There are some permissions given to students for use of copyrighted music. Do a google search for "fair use" and a whole bunch of stuff can be covered. It will explain how you can use it if it is part of a class.

or start here: http://www.copyright...2chap1.html#107 or
http://fairuse.stanf...view/index.html

There are all sorts of licenses that may be obtained and may be expensive. And there are websites that may sell them easily over the internet. You may need a license from whoever owns the recording and whoever owns the song - publishing rights? Then there are synchronous licenses and mechanical licenses... all confusing stuff if you are not a lawyer.

Is a place you can start researching:
http://www.ascap.com/index.html

And a volunteer lawyer group for artisits:
http://www.vlany.org/

On the personal side: I tried to get a license for two songs on a website I have but no one would call me back after repeated phone calls. So I have been using it and am just waiting for someone to send me a cease notice. I guess I was too small than a national commercial for a major brand named product.

And I have talked to one wedding videographer and he mentioned legally, even if they record audio and video of the bride and groom dancing to "their song", they should be getting a license. But the recording industry doesn't seem to care about weddings videographers. They are small potatoes. And if they did, it would shut down the business nation wide. Just imagine if a music rights charge was added to wedding videos. People are cheap, and wouldn't go for a few hundred or a few thousand dollars more to watch their wedding videos at home to share with friends.

The recording inductry probably could make some money if they stream lined the business of acquiring rights for a smaller fee for students and small businesses like the wedding videographers. Perhaps they have thought about it and deemed it unprofitable.

Good luck

Tim
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#9 Gordon Highland

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Posted 08 July 2005 - 01:24 PM

The recording inductry probably could make some money if they stream lined the business of acquiring rights for a smaller fee for students and small businesses like the wedding videographers. Perhaps they have thought about it and deemed it unprofitable.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


Yeah, that would be nice. They could make a LITTLE money in smaller doses from more people than they're currently getting none from at all. But it won't likely happen.

I'm particularly sensitive to this topic, being a musican myself who's composed and recorded a catalog of songs. There's this disturbingly-pervading notion that music is something that should be "free" to enjoy by all. While that's a cute sentiment, it's not fun to the person who invests insane amounts of money and time and emotion into crafting these works of art that may or may not want commercial attention.

I'm fine with anyone getting to LISTEN to a piece once for free, but to possess it in a recorded form, or-- the real sticking point-- to SYNCHRONIZE with something I may or may not approve of without permission or compensation is insanity. I personally may decide that someone could use a song in a movie for $200 (or even for free) just cuz I like it. But say someone wants to use it underneath some footage of a Hitler rally, no amount of money may be worth that to me, and the possible damage to the artist's reputation (especially if it was a big hit song) by association is beyond compensation. Even on a small level, maybe I don't like the way your indie character is slapping around the woman in that scene my song underscores. Or even a very basic philosophical disagreement.

Beyond the thoughts of whether you think you'll get caught or not, or be financially worth pursuing, I'm personally asking each of you to please consider these things before you decide to illegally use copyrighted music. I've seen some great footage from DPs in this forum. . . and some of it might intercut quite nicely into my al Qaeda doc. Y'all don't mind working for free, right? :P
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#10 Robert Hughes

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Posted 08 July 2005 - 11:39 PM

Does anyone remember the Microsoft "start me up" media campaign for Windows 98, or whatever was that year's flavor?

Microsoft approached the Rolling Stones for the rights to use the Stone's "Start Me Up" in their Super Bowl commercial. Mick & Keef turned 'em down without a second thought, until the lawyers announced that MS intended to record a similar song, with slightly different lyrics and melody to work around the copyright issue. Different piece, but it was to sound almost exactly the same, and would fool 99% of the audience into thinking it was the original song.

The Stones, seeing a blatant ripoff in the works and a lucrative licensing prospect about to evaporate, folded and sold MS the rights.
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#11 Robert Edge

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Posted 09 July 2005 - 01:08 AM

...until the lawyers announced that MS intended to record a similar song, with slightly different lyrics and melody to work around the copyright issue. Different piece, but it was to sound almost exactly the same, and would fool 99% of the audience into thinking it was the original song.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


In other words, if you string some notes together so that they sound "almost exactly the same" and "would fool 99 per cent of the audience", and tell the copyright holder that that is what you intend to do, you are home free on copyright.

Please tell us that you don't really believe this story.
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#12 siddharth diwan

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Posted 09 July 2005 - 09:22 AM

thanks a lot guys u almost saved me from being dragged to the the court room.

well i am a student but making this one for film festivals.

what if we remix the song or put a lot of sound effects in between do i escape the copyright laws this way or i'm still in deep poop.....

plus there is a sequence where the lead is listening to music on a discman and the music is leaking from the headphones, can i use popular music in that part or even that is not possible.

thanks a lot
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#13 Robert Edge

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Posted 09 July 2005 - 09:45 AM

Sid,

Forget the law for a minute. What do you think it does to your personal reputation to screen a film in public that contains the work of others that you do not have permission to use?

That said, the ASCAP website and others talk about the distinction between educational and commercial uses. A little research might help answer your question about film festivals. Certainly, a screening at Toronto or Cannes would be a big problem. For a small campus festival, maybe not. Regarding re-mixes, I seem to recall that there is an issue about when there is, and is not, a copyright violation. You would have to research this.
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#14 Robert Edge

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Posted 09 July 2005 - 09:57 AM

You also need to realize that festival organizers themselves have an interest in ensuring that what they screen does not violate copyright. A festival that screens a film that contains material that violates copyright is itself in violation of copyright.
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#15 Peter J DeCrescenzo

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Posted 09 July 2005 - 11:44 AM

Sid,

I've posted this link before, but I think it's a good one.

The interview at the following URL describes the ordeal the producers of the recent documentary "Mad Hot Ballroom" went through to get usage rights for the music in their film:
http://blog.stayfree...ot_ballroo.html

All the best,

- Peter DeCrescenzo
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#16 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 09 July 2005 - 02:44 PM

Hi,

I have a solution to this on the documentary work I occasionally do - a friendly composer with his own production facilities. He's very competent and affordable for the sort of stuff I do. This is idea. It's practically as fast as jumping through the licencing hoops, much cheaper even than decent library music (cheap library music sounds it) and most of all it's simple - I commission it, the client owns it and has all rights in it and we can do what we like with it. By far the best way to go.

Phil
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#17 Robert Edge

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Posted 10 July 2005 - 12:24 AM

What mostly comes through in the interview that is the subject of the above link is the arrogance of the filmmakers, who would be spitting nails if they were told that they did not have the right to decide who could use footage from their film and at what price.

Phil Rhodes has this so right. It is just not that hard to find people who will write music that can be used legitimately. For that matter, it is really easy to take a piece of music in the public domain and find someone who will arrange it and record it in a modern idiom. As a piano player, I can take a traditional, public domain blues piece and turn it into jazz or rock or pop or rap or whatever I want, just by placing the melody in a particular framework.

The real issue here, which has come up before on this site, is about understanding that one can take a melody and interpret it in many ways. It is basic musicianship, and people who don't play music are likely to find that these problems of rights can be solved pretty easily by talking with people who do play. It is certainly a better solution than canned or computer generated music, which in my own experience is garbage.

Edited by R. Edge, 10 July 2005 - 12:28 AM.

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