A Nervy Subject
Editor’s note: Recently we published several articles dealing with copyright and fair use issues. We believe with the growing proliferation of content sharing sites like YouTube, the subject is going to get bigger and broader, become embedded in legal voodoo, and perhaps take the “joy” out of the new video-sharing industry. Plus who really owns your video once it’s “out there”? Below are a few of the many letters we’ve recently received on this subject, and the discussion will certainly continue.
Don’t Use It
I read with interest David Orr’s question and [Videomaker Contributing Editor Hal Robertson’s] answer on using commercial music [November 2006 issue.] I am a photographer first, video producer second, and have given many talks to artist groups on the problems of using copyrighted material. It is surprising how quickly one can get in to that great gray area of when you can and cannot use material.
My latest video music problem came when I wanted to use a song recorded in 1930 as the background for a video on Route 66. This video is for a nonprofit public access TV station. I did the videotaping in 2003, and started to trace the old recording. I found the soundtrack on the Internet, and it came from an old RCA Victor record. RCA Victor no longer is in existence, and the artists and composer are all dead, so I thought I was home free. Wrong.
It seems the whole file of masters was sold to several different companies over the years, the last one being BMI in Germany. Each time the stock was sold, it was re-copyrighted. Since 2003 I have been in contact with BMI, and still do not have a yes or no on usage. In the meantime, I found a different recording on a different label, and found the daughter of the artist who owns the current copyright. She gave me written permission to use that version as well as digital copy, so now, three years later, I can start the final editing of my video.
I did an award winning video for the same TV station on Polar Bears, and this time I used only royalty-free music. I finished that video in two weeks, including adding the narration.
So my advice is to stay clear of currently popular music artists, and even the older albums, as who knows where and when a copyright holder will pop out of the woodwork and sue you.
When Can I Use It?
I recently started working with video production again (after a 15 year break) and have found your magazine both helpful and very informative. Reader David Orr wrote in your In Box section about the use of commercial music. I was glad to read that this is a topic you plan to address in future Videomaker issues. Mr. Orr brings up many good questions, but please allow me to add a few.
Our production company frequently films events such as dance recitals, school plays, weddings, etc., all of which at some time or another use commercial music. The music is not only “playback” of the original recording, but could also be a singer performing the latest #1 ballad for the bride and groom. I often wonder what the liabilities are of filming these events?
Obviously, broadcasting is not a concern for most of these events, but often we duplicate numerous discs for sale by our clients. Mr. Robertson’s response to the letter stating, “It’s actually quite messy” is a finding many of us have run into.
The unfortunate part of the whole issue is that most professionals want to do the LEGAL thing, but we often find that no one knows what that is.
Thank you for your insight on this matter. We eagerly await future articles on the topic!
When Do You No Longer Own It?
[Regarding the Videomaker What’s Legal article, January 2007, by Mark Levy] I have been fighting a losing battle with a movie rental agency who purchases my copyrighted video titles and rents them to others without my permission. I have had the law researched (by intellectual property specialists) and found that the law was changed in the early 80’s or thereabouts to specifically exclude movies and videos from the copyright infringement of rental by the purchaser (not the producer) of a movie, through the First Sale Doctrine. Rental companies are permitted to rent movies they have purchased legally from the producer and pay no royalties to the producer or actors therein, and do not require the producer’s agreement for the movie to be rented.
We believe this is patently unfair since artists who produce phonograph or music CD’s are compensated on all sales, rentals, downloads, or plays over the airwaves, but producers and actors in videos are open game for anyone who wishes to rent movies to others for viewing.
The exception in the law came about to foster the new rental industry with the advent of Betamax and early VHS products, long before anyone could afford to produce movies as independent producers with computer editing equipment. The law gave the “little people” the right to view big Hollywood productions at a “fair” price, and no royalty is required and no copyright is infringed. This is the only exception we know of to copyright protection of artists’ works. All music, audio recordings and print authors are protected. Video authors are not.
The law is on the rental agency side, and we cannot stop them from renting our videos, which will ultimately put us out of business.
Thank you for the opportunity to respond, and I hope that Videomaker will help to take up this issue, as we independent producers are the ones who depend on you for up-to-date information on all issues that affect our business.
Johnnie Liliedahl, Artist
Liliedahl Video Productions
Liliedahl Fine Art Studio
La Porte, TX
To the many readers who have sent in comments and questions in response to Mr. Orr’s In Box question (November 2006) and our What’s Legal story (January 2007): We are following up on these questions and concerns, and are researching the best ways you can get your videos seen, without the legal hassle that simple video producing has become. Stay tuned for more information on this important subject!
Super article! (December 2006 Director’s Chair) Thanks to Robert G. Nulph, Ph.D. It awakened (in my mind) the “Everyday Masterpieces” that are out there… Thank You. Keep ’em coming!!!! You guy’s have a SUPER MAG. I am not a PRO but just “your typical camcorder user” that just tries to have a hobby that can be fun .
James J. Szczecinski
Making Cents with Video
I would like to say thank you, thank you, thank you so much for this magazine. You guys are definitely on top when it comes to educating and informing people on audio/video as a whole. I was very enlightened when I read the article on Making Cents (August 2006). I can truly say that it can be a guide to anyone pursuing a career in video. Good job, Bill!!!
I LOVE the magazine, I LOVE the vidcast, I LOVE the web site. Thanks, guys.
via the Internet