Videomaker – Learn video production and editing, camera reviews › Forums › General › Video and Film Discussion › Rights to music/using on documentary question › Copyright laws are so comp
Copyright laws are so complex, and there are so many little loopholes through fair use that this is a really touchy matter. I would suggest that you talk to a lawyer before taking any advice on this site, including my own.
Personally, I avoid popular music in my public releases (a public release is anything that won’t be seen by only family & friends, i.e. any film you might want to promote). The first problem is getting the copyright owners to even speak to you. In their eyes, you’re small potatoes, and the only reason they would ever really want to speak to you would be after the fact, when they sue you to send a message to the rest of the world. Believe me, I’ve tried getting the time of day from BMI and the other music agencies. They really do treat small time producers like dirt.
If you do happen to get someone to agree to take your money, the next challenge is paying the ridiculous rates. ASCAP has a minimum rate of $288 per license. What that means is that if your prodution cost you $100 to put together, and you only showed it to one person, you’d still have to pay ASCAP their $300. On top of that, there are sync licenses you have to think of, etc, etc… In the end, that one single song could cost you $1000 or more, even if you don’t plan on taking this thing all the way to Sundance.
Now, the law does allow use of copyrighted material under fair use, but the fair use laws are so gray and vague, if someone ever decided to push the case to court, it would ultimately come down to who had the better lawyer. The recording industry always has the better lawyer.
Honestly, the best bet is to either make your own music, or buy royalty-free music. Both of these will cost you something up front, but they’re probably a lot cheaper than getting a music license from big music. And the best part i that then, you won’t have to worry about the recording industry holding your production hostage if you exceed the original limits of your license and they decide to cancel it.
Of course, we all know that Michael Jackson owns the rights to the Beatles’ music now. I’d bet that if you could come up with, say, $50 and a busload of 4th graders for a picnic at Neverland, ole M.J. would probably let you use all their songs in your video. X-D