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How are most videographers working with copyright restrictions?

sebazvideo's picture
Last seen: 1 year 7 months ago
Joined: 07/07/2011 - 5:10pm

From reading about copyright restrictions in this and other forums it seems that videographers are banned from doing lots of live events or risk losing their business to a lawsuit at some point. For what I read you can't even record a dance recital or a school play unless they only use public domain songs (which probably most of them don't), or the part of a wedding where people are dancing to pop music, and many other type of events where at some point copyrighted music is being played.

So I'm wondering, how are most videographers dealing with this? Obviously no one is going to pay the excessive copyright fees to use 20 or 30 songs in a dance recital, so doing those is out of the question, and probably a couple getting married will not be happy when you tell them that you can't include any of the dances (including the first dance as husband and wife). They will most likely keep looking for another videographer that is willing to include everything in the video, including making a montage to their favorite song. Of course any videographer doing that is risking losing everything at some point.

So other than doing videos that don't require any use of copyrighted music, what is there left to do for a videographer? Are most videographers nowadays still working on weddings and school events with all these copyright restrictions?


EarlC's picture
Last seen: 6 months 6 days ago
Joined: 10/15/2008 - 1:15am
Plus Member Moderator

I'm moving away from event video production to Video Story Tellers, where I control the content and utilize music selections I can legally incorporate into the final video.


birdcat's picture
Last seen: 2 years 1 month ago
Joined: 10/21/2005 - 10:09am
Plus Member Moderator

#1 - I am not an attorney.

#2 - All opinions in this reply are mine and no one elses.

#3 - I have always believed "He who lives by the crystal ball soon learns to eat ground glass".

OK - All that said up front, it is my belief (prediction) that at some point, hopefully in my lifetime, a watershed case will come before the Supreme Court challenging how music can be used legally - both in personal ways, like weddings, and in corporate & commercial video. I believe, in the same way DJ's can legally play copyrighted songs (as long as they acquire the special versions they must use - same music just different licensing) wedding and event videographers will be granted the same rights as DJ's when it comes to popular music.

It will most probably require the video producer/editor to purchase each song for something like $5 a pop for personal and something higher for corporate/commercial use (deeper pockets) with most of that money, as always, going to the lawyers.

Just MHO.

Bruce Paul 7Squared Productions http://www.7squared.com


Jack Wolcott's picture
Last seen: 9 months 2 weeks ago
Joined: 01/02/2008 - 11:51pm
Plus Member

Sebastian, you bring up issues in two separate categories: dance recitals and plays on the one hand, weddings and receptions on the other.

Regarding dance recitals I have no knowledge. With plays, however, there is no gray area: either the producer of the play -- the high school or theatre group -- has written permission to videotape from the copyright holder or they don't. Period. If they do -- Disney licenses plays to organizations with specific permission for the play to be video taped and for DVDs to be sold to the cast, for example -- then you have no problem. If they don't have permission for the play to be taped, you could be in trouble.

As long as the DVD you make is being shown to Grandma and the folks who couldn't get to the performance there's no likelihood of trouble. But when Johnny decides to put his scene on You Tube . . . watch out!

Here's how we deal with this in our company. Our contract has specific statements in which the producer of the play asserts that he/she has received permission from the copyright holder for the play to be taped and for DVDs created from this taping to be sold. The producer must initial statements that he/she has permission from (1) the copyright holder; (2) from all the members of the cast and crew; and (3) from members of the orchestra to have a DVD created and distributed. Finally, we begin each DVD with the printed statement that under NO circumstances may any portion of the DVD be displayed on the Internet.

Probably the most important fact here -- and it is a fact -- is that permission to video tape the show and to make DVDs must be obtained by the producer, not by you the videographer. The producer obtains the rights to the work contractual from the copyright owner and these rights control factors such as what promotional materials will look like, how many performances may be given and the right to record.

Regarding weddings and receptions, the Internet has caused all sorts of complications. Before the Internet the distribution of wedding videos and DVDs was pretty well limited to friends and family. Comes the Internet, You Tube, Facebook, etc., the game has changed.

I'm not an attorney, but this is how the use of music was explained to me. If you record the first dance and it's to a Madonna song, and you use a 30 second clip of the dance, you have incidental use of the music and there's probably no problem. You're breaking the law but it's unlikely that it's worth the trouble to a recording to go after you legally. If, on the other hand, you decide to use the Madonna song as a musical theme throughout the reception, you're asking for trouble.

Legally, Madonna's agent could come after whoever put the wedding on You Tube with a Cease and Desist order and could attempt to fine you for including the song in your wedding video, but this is probably an unlikely scenario, although it has happened recently.

To be on the safe side, here's our solution. We don't shoot weddings anymore but we apply this to photo montages. We supply royalty free buy-out music for the montage. If the client insists that we use pop songs from CDs that they have, we'll do that for them. However, we ask that they sign a release stating (1) that the photo montage is for personal use; (2) that nothing from the DVD will be posted on the Internet; and (3) that if the photo montage is posted on the Internet, the client will be fully responsible for costs incurred in any legal actions taken against our company.

This may seem draconian, but in today's litigious society we think it's about the only way for a company to be on the safe side. At the very least it gives us an opportunity to discuss with our clients the potential dangers involved in distributing materials on the Internet to which you have no rights broadcast or publication rights.

Jack



iunknown's picture
Last seen: 2 years 7 months ago
Joined: 03/07/2012 - 6:28pm

Jack,

Seems like pinterest is taking the same angle, letting the customer deal with it.

http://ddkportraits.com/2012/02/why-i-tearfully-deleted-my-pinterest-inspiration-boards/