Videomaker – Learn video production and editing, camera reviews › Forums › Specialty Topics › Wedding and Event Video › legality of filming a high school musical
March 15, 2009 at 11:57 PM #46842AnonymousInactive
Hi all. I’m an avid reader of Video Maker, but this is my first visit to the forum itself. I am a novice videographer, trying to make the jump towards turning it into a side business. The part that concerns me the most is the legality of what I would be shooting. My wife is the director for our local high school’s musical. She asked me if I would like to cut my teeth on filming their musical this year. She thought that I could put together a nice video package and then offer it to the kids for a cheap $5 per dvd.
My question is that if the school bought the rights to the show, and I am deemed the “official” videographer for the show, would I be allowed to film it and sell the DVD’s? Personally, I could see doing this for free, just to get my feet wet, so to speak.
My wife performs in shows for a local theater company as well. I have videotaped several shows for them, but only authored a few DVD’s, more for archival purposes than anything else (I didn’t charge anything for these). The thing is, the company hired a “professional” for their one big summermusical and he charged like $20-25 per DVD for the cast and their families. The show was Roger and Hammerstein’s “Annie Get your Gun”. Did he technically also have to buy the rights to videotape this show or was that right transferred to the theater company when they bought the rights?
So I guess the bottom line of my question is… what gives this guy the right to film their show and sell the video whereas I perhaps would not be allowed?
Thanks for any help!
March 16, 2009 at 12:15 AM #192874AnonymousInactive
I was checking out this thread http://videomaker.com/community/forums/topic/videography-for-plays-and-live-performance?replies=19#post-40596and it seems like it would at least have to be totally non-profit or any profits would have to be given back to the school’s theater program? Which wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing either, considering my wife could always use more theater funds for the kids.
March 16, 2009 at 1:55 AM #192875AnonymousInactive
I started that thread and it had a lot of great advice and some that could end your career or hobby real quick. What makes the difference is one of two things. Either the videographer went through the proper channels and received permission (probably for $), or took a gamble and did it in hopes that they wouldn’t get caught. What I recommend doing is going to the source of the scripts (or sheet music) and ask them to spell it out for you. Ask the school for the proper contact info and make the call yourself and ask as many questions as possible. You can leave it up to someone else like the school or the directors, but then you are hoping they ask the right questions. If it were my rear on the line, I’d make the call.One question I still have; are all of the parents that shoot the play on their handicam and play it at home guilty of copyright infringement or is this just directed towardsforms ofreproduction?
March 16, 2009 at 6:34 PM #192876
Virtually ANY form of recording and selling, giving away, public presentation of any element containing copyright creative/intellectual content is illegal without having obtained the legal signed and notated releases from all individuals, companies, organizations, etc. who have a piece of the copyright ownership. That is the reality, with FEW exceptions like “fair use” “educational” etc. There ARE a LOT of gray areas (maybe? not really!) but again the REALITY of it all is that if you record, display, produce and give away or sell anything containing copyright material you are infringing on SOMEbody’s copyrights and violating the usage thereof. That being said…
SOME schools (performance groups) will be well-informed, know exactly WHAT rights they have purchased and have a document of some form stating what they have obtained. They will then, releases in hand, hire outside services for video, audio or other reproduction, sales and distribution.
OTHER schools (performance groups) ARE NOT well-informed (or pretend to be so), DO NOT know exactly what rights they have obtained and might not even have gone so far as to obtain ANY rights. Many simply pick up a copy of a play, song, production, etc. and make copies of it (copyright violation in itself, more or less – copying printed copyright materials), and performing it, videotaping/recording it, selling it, distributing it – all going well beyond a host of copyright violations along the way.
WHILE others in these situations know so and do so, willing to ignore the legal copyright violations involved, others wouldn’t knowingly go that direction after being informed of the potential for litigation and some pretty stiff fines. (even jail time, eh…) More don’t know and don’t care, figuring they will continue to slip through the legal cracks and get by with it.
So many of us in this business try to rationalize, mentally legalize, and otherwise find ways to justify doing this. A lot of people are convinced that their reasoning/rationalization is good-to-perfect, but would it hold up in court – NOPE! And as is noted in many legal documents… “…ignorance of the law is no defense… “
In addition to being a legal issue, copyright violation is also a moral one. “We all have done it”, and will continue to do so, but that won’t ALWAYS protect us or keep us out of hell or purgatory – or where ever people who break the law go…
Eventually, most of us will get caught, to a greater or lesser degree. Depending on the circumstances we’ll get a cease and desist, a slap on the wrist, or something personally or economically much worse – even devastating. Sooner or later, if enough copyright violations are committed, if enough illegally produced, distributed and sold DVDs, etc. are handled, bad things are gonna happen.
Then again, there are people who smoke, drink, do drugs and fornicate with abandon and live to be a hundred, while others who walk the line in all aspects of life die young.
Don’t get me wrong here, I am NOT preaching. I think what I am doing is stating the facts. Each of us has to make our own determination how far out on the copyright limb we want to go. It is a personal decision that really should be a legal decision, but due to much of the “unfairness” REAL, or IMAGINED, of some things copyright (you’ve seen, heard, read, listened to the arguments – and there are PLENTY), will be mostly ignored or mentally/morally avoided. Like telling ourselves, “don’t go there.” Sort of like that illogical logic about the tree falling in a forest and no one being there to hear it.
Copyright laws, when explained by a knowledgeable attorney (who among us can understand all that legalese?) has not much flexibility, nor gray areas.
Most everyone, at one time or another, sooner or later, knowingly or unknowingly violates some copyright somewhere. Some will get caught and pay the price. Some won’t. It’s a choice, and all choices/decisions we make have consequences.
March 16, 2009 at 10:04 PM #192877AnonymousInactive
Let me start by saying that I appreciate both of your responses! It is wonderful to have a resource such as this where friendly people are willing to help newcomers to the craft (especially with topics that undoubtedly have been asked before). I believe I am beginning to get the gist of the copyright issue pertaining to theater in general. Basically it comes down to a risk/reward situation with a whole lot of ethicality thrown in. It sounds like a lot of frustrating scenarios where you see others illegally videotaping and getting away with it (or so it seems) while you are bound in the knowledge that it isn’t trully lawful and besides that, not really right either.
The main reasons I want to videotape this show is to get experience AND to give the kid’s a nice DVD of their show. I could see even just having them give me a blank dvd as payment enough. However, what I foresee that concerns me a bit, is then the kid takes the dvd home, throws clips of it onto You tube, and THAT is what leads to potential problems on my part. In fact, not too long ago I had posted a video on you tube from one of my wife’s performances. It wasn’t a full show, but it was a snippet from the song “Do Re Mi” from “The Sound of Music.” Well, low and behold, it didn’t take the production company too long to find it online and file a complaint with You tube, who removed it and kindly warned me that future copyright violations would result in deletion of my You tube account. So, I know “they” are out there, watching….waiting…
My wife checked her contract. It stated no video taping or audio recording. However, it also stated absolutely NO modification of the script whatsoever (which is hard to do at a high school level). I guess what burns me is to see the other “professional” videographers who DO take the risk and get away with it (I know for a fact that the rights purchased through the theater company for that show I was talking about are exactly the same ones purchased by the high school for the same show…videotaping was definitely listed as a “no-no”).
Anyway, again, I appreciate your feedback on this matter. It has helped me greatly. Unless I find some kind of odd loophole in the contract or something more concrete, I don’t think I’m going to touch this one.
Thanks for your help!
March 16, 2009 at 10:13 PM #192878
You can try asking for, and sometimes actually receiving, permission from the copyright holder of the play that HAS been approved for performance. (sometimes purchase of the script by and for the school includes a “performance rights” clause)
That permission (look through the existing release wording, if any) would be to allow the creation of a video for “educational” purposes. Even this has been taken to the extreme, but it might allow for some flexibility in seeing that each performer received one to “study and learn” from – a kinda sorta loophole that some have utilized for getting around the production, sale and distribution issues.
April 24, 2009 at 6:41 PM #192879AnonymousInactive
This whole topic of copyright got me thinking. What about those Videographers who shoot weddings and funerals that use copyrighted music in their videos. Here is an example of one I found on the web. You can just click on Dancing Segment on this website http://www.yourvideographer.com/samples.html This Videographer uses the song “Let’s Get It Started” by The Black Eyed Peas and The Black Eyed Peas are signed with A&M Records. Unless the videographer got permission from A&M Records to use this song, isn’t this illegal that the videographer is using this music, if he didn’t get permission? The reason why I ask this is, I want to know what is right, because I am starting my foundation to build a video production business and I do not want to go down the wrong path legally and ethically.
April 25, 2009 at 1:37 PM #192880CvilleParticipant
yourvideographer makes a great point with his post about popular music. I can answer this question It is absolutly illegal to use that music in any production with out aquiring the rites. Unless you hav a big budget those rites are almost impossible to aquire.
I know that many video services will use popular music in productions for weddings etc. And they knowingly violate the copyright and therfore take a very real financial risk with their business.
For instance at our Church we havea performance license. It allows us to perform secular music that we want to incorporate into our service. It also allows us toplay recorded music for pre service or other events. This license is even required if you want to play recorded music say during an exercise class.
This can be a never ending topic but I think an important one.
I am including a link to a website that is geared toward Churches but has alot of good copyright information.
April 26, 2009 at 1:08 AM #192881
The challenge, and questions about use thereof, to event video coverage is eternal. There is NO solid and affordable legal recourse to the issue of producing an event that uses, right or wrong, any copyrighted music, images, designs, copy or other material created, owned and sold or distributed by another. Decide what YOU are willing to do, your personal “fear factor” or “fear level” of the possible consequences, the odds of getting called out or caught, then do what you will.
April 26, 2009 at 4:27 AM #192882CraftersOfLightParticipant
Observations and opinions.Do with it as you will…
I am but a fledgling videographerand my naivety of such things leaves me with something af a disturbing view of this profession andthe willingness of a few to dishonor fellow artists by trying to justify ignoring one of the fewlaws that protect our work. This naivety also does not understand how ones so willing to ignore the rights of another, be able to call themselves a professionalwhile lookingsomeone straight in the eye.
As I read these posts about copyrights, I hear othersinternal voices trying to justify their actionswith quotes such as, “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead” or “it’s only illegal if your get caught”. I have been guilty of using othersmaterial without permission in my earlyworkas I start out, but as Ilearn and pay attention tothose legalities andrights, I have also chosen not to repeat those actions in any future endeavor. I do shiver at what might be the perceptions ofthose just coming into this form of artistic expression as they read these posts.
I choose the moral high ground so that I may sleep comfortably and not have to look over my shoulder. I respect people like EarlC, Birdcat, Composite1and Coreecewho are not afraid to share their talents and skills with others.They have shownthe maturity to givetheir opinion and not argue another’s.
We can legally use the works of another in our projects if we follow the protocols that are laid out to us and get the appropriate permissions. And like any other piece of equipment we look for to do our jobs, if it is too expensive, we do without andmanage a work-aroundor find a way to raise the money needed.
The one fear I haveabout all this… where complacency of such lawsdilutethem to such a state that it is almost impossible to be protected by themnow and in the future. I hope I do not see the seeds of that here. I also know that the big companies will not go down without a fight.I still rememberwhat happened to Napster, their act alikes and their patrons,just a few short years ago.
April 29, 2009 at 4:38 AM #192883AnonymousInactive
Thank you Cville! That was a Great Introspective viewpoint, Crafters of Light! I have my moral compass that I live by and was established by my family. The decisions I make in life should give honor and respect to my family and friends. One thing thou, I don’t expect or judge people for what their moral compass is, I have enough to worry about. The only time, I start barking, if it effects my reputation, family or friends. I did the samethings like Crafters did in the past. It is funny thou, I thought I was doing the right thing and now I look back and think, “What was I thinking….” I believe we all make mistakes and we have a choice to learn from them.
May 2, 2009 at 4:14 AM #192884SteveMannParticipant
If the musical is leased from MTI (Music Theater Incorporated), then ask if the school purchased the video rights with the performance license. It’s usually pretty reasonable and available for most of the older titles. Not, though, that the video license from MTI only allows distribution to the cast and crew.
October 2, 2013 at 4:28 PM #206158
It seems to me that copyright laws were designed to prevent stealing intellectual content for financial gain AT THE EXPENSE of the creator.
If a school purchased the music and the rights to a play and performed it, the creator of the play received his/her money as per the contract. The fact that mom recorded little Billy to show grandpa who couldn’t be at the play doesn’t affect the rights holder financially.
If the play was so good that mom sold the DVDs preventing others from purchasing the rights for future performances, that would be another story.
I think it’s a matter of time before this part of the law is changed.
October 3, 2013 at 12:42 PM #208754
Steve221, I don't think you are considering it from the point of view of the creator. Copyright laws were designed to give the creator control over the work, not just money. Many creators would be strongly opposed to any change in the law that strips this control. Just 'cause you want to do something and figure, "Hey, who's it hurting?" doesn't mean you can use my stuff without my permission.
October 3, 2013 at 1:54 PM #208755
In the case of a high school musical (or in my case a middle school musical) we got the creator's permission to view the work buy purchasing the materials/license. Dad was legally able to view the production but was unable to attend. Video taping it allow him to view that same performance at a latter time. No loss of control just viewed at a different time.
October 21, 2013 at 8:39 AM #208887
I shoot weddings in a venue for many years now, The Venue has performance licenses that they pay for. The Wedding party pays me to capture their event, I can not be held responsible for what the DJ plays during my capture? If i am videotaping on a public beach and someone happens to have their radio on playing music, I am not responsible for Their music in MY recording. This sounds like a lawyers playground waiting to open up on the person or place who has the most money to loose.
my opinion only..
October 24, 2013 at 12:48 PM #208912
Steve221 and WeddingMaster, I'm afraid you are both factually and legally wrong.
Steve, *nobody* bought a license to view the musical. Rather, the school bought a license to perform the musical — a set number of times (the run of the show), under specified conditions (live). If Dad wasn't able to attend, then too bad so sad; he missed it. The creator's control over the rights of presentation is both justifiable and (perhaps more immediately vital from a videographer's perspective) legally protected.
WeddingMaster, you can't use creators' music in your video without their permission, regardless of how you acquired it. If you claim the music isn't part of YOUR recording, then fine — remove it. The bride and groom can dance in silence, or you can dub in some music you do have permission to use; if that's not acceptable to them, that proves that the creators' music is an essential and material part of the recording, and requires their permission. Again, the creators' right to control the use of their creations is both moral and legal.
I think you guys's mistake is that you're not viewing the matter from the perspective of the creator — y'know, the one who made and owns the music you want to use. The fact that you REALLY WANT to use somebody else's property without permission doesn't give you the right to.
October 24, 2013 at 4:56 PM #208917
Have to agree with TheLoneBanana on this one. WeddingMaster, you can be held liable, if you ever get caught. Hopefully, you won't. Here's an analogy that may help it make more sense. If my neighbor has a bicycle sitting by his house, and I'd really like to use it, I can't just take it out for a ride without his permission, because the bicycle is my neighbor's property. In the same way, music and images are the property of those who create them, so long as they claim copyright. One may not like it, but that's the law.
October 24, 2013 at 5:31 PM #208918
So what you're saying is that if Weddingmaster want to film someone on the beach he needs to approach everyone with a radio playing and ask them to turn it off so that music won't be heard on his tape? Good luck with that.
October 24, 2013 at 5:46 PM #208919
Steve– ROFL! Actually, it gets worse than that! First, he has to go get a permit to shoot on the beach, if it's a commercial job. Even better luck with that! Short clips from someone's radio would be considered fair use, so no worries on that one. But if there are any recognizeable faces on his video, he legally needs to get releases from them. And best of luck getting those!
Of course, 99% of the shooters out there don't do any of this. And for wedding videos, it probably doesn't matter from a practical standpoint. But the work I do has a bit wider audience, so I spend half my life getting filming permits, and I'm careful about where my crew points the camera.
October 25, 2013 at 4:25 AM #208924
Me being a musician also, I have to agree with "Fair Use" but, Lets be realistic..The only people seeing my video are the Bride and Groom and maybe their family. I dont think they will turn me into the feds! I think the US govt. has enough problems on their hands right now than to investigate if I contacted Loui Armstrong to get permission to use "what a wonderful woild" lol
October 25, 2013 at 9:50 AM #208929
WeddingMaster, your lack of ethics is appalling. If I lean my bike against my house or against a stsore downtown, and you take it without my permission, you're a thief — plain and simple. The fact that you REALLY WANT to use my property doesn't give you any right to do so. A functioning adult should be able to understand this rudimentary principle.
You're also ignorant of the law, which is not a good thing in a business owner. It's not a "lawyer's playground". The law is very clear; it's an open-and-shut case, and you lose. The USAnian government won't investigate you, because that's not how copyright-infringement cases work, but Louis Armstrong's estate might.
You are correct on one point: It's unlikely that anything bad will happen to you, because you're too small-time. But if you ever do a wedding at which one of the guests is a lawyer for BMI/ASCAP or RIAA, you're out of business and possibly bankrupt to boot. Only you can decide your acceptable level of risk.
What you can't do is claim you're in the right or somehow a good person. Your only honest position is "I know this is wrong and illegal, but I'm going to do it anyway."
I apologize if I sound harsh, but it's people like you, with exactly this attitude, that make all videographers look bad.
October 25, 2013 at 9:58 AM #208930
Sorry we cant all be as Ethical and perfect as you are…You act like a politician and the world does not need more preaching too…If it bothers you so much why not get into a new line of work? Maybe a priest or homeless shelter operator?
October 25, 2013 at 7:59 PM #208938
Harry, I am pleased that you are taking my advice and admitting that you are not ethical; that's a step forward from your initial position of insisting you had the right to use other people's property without their permission, and progress is always to be applauded.
Thank you also for the vocational suggestions, but I'm afraid I am quite committed with charitable activities. Perhaps you might try something like that yourself; helping other people can be very gratifying.
October 26, 2013 at 5:56 AM #208947
You have successfully turned this post into your own rightous rant..Thank You for adding nothing usefull at all except telling everyone they are unethical and you are right! geezz..going to the anti Tea Party demonstrations now?
October 26, 2013 at 6:21 PM #208950
Harry, I understand that you're angry because you've been proven wrong and you're defensive, but I don't think either of us is adding anything to this thread any more. I will unsubscribe, and neither read nor respond to anything further. I continue to wish you all the best.
June 11, 2018 at 6:57 AM #294597ArthurParticipant
There needs to be an income cap on copyrighted works. After the cap is reached, copyright restriction is removed. Popular works make more money faster, so the copyright lasts longer on an unpopular work. Capping income on works of art also seperates art from money-making. Art becomes better once the drive for money is removed. Those who just want to make money off “art” will still be able to make a quick buck. An Income Cap on Art rewards creativity without undermining the purpose of Art.
October 3, 2013 at 12:36 PM #208753
Yup–they're all violating copyright. Most don't realize it, and others simply hope to stay under the radar. For most commercial work, at least with a media-savvy client, you'll need performance releases for everyone who appears, location agreements for every location in which you shoot, and music clearances for every piece of music used.
October 25, 2013 at 4:35 AM #208925
I have to disagree, If I take the bike from their property, I have stolen it. If the Bikes owner has brought the bike out in public for his own promotion and monetary gain (exploited it) and left it there for all to look, hold,ride etc for his own gain, Then he is at the mercy of the people to not borrow it, ride it,look at it etc. I am not re-recording it, mashing it..(another subject), altering it it any way or form to make monetary gain from them. I get paid the same whether their music is playing when I tape or not.
Like I said earlier, Its a lawyers playground and I doubt any attorney will take the case for the playing of 15-20 songs. And one more thing, Almost all of the songs are cut off either in the beginning or the end unless they run into each other so they arent actual full plays. AM radio does this all the time..called bumpers.
again, just my opinion..
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