Country is important to, laws


Country is important to, laws are similar but not identical. In general, there are two main rights involved, with perhaps a third in there tucked away. The composer of the music has rights. The people who perform it in the recording have rights in their work (often handled by their record company, if signed). These are the main two, and if you watch TV adverts, you’ll often find well known music that has been re-recorded for the ad. That way, the composer’s rights are the only one that matters. If your then re-record the music yourself, you can use it if the composer has been dead 70 years. No payment. If you get musicians to record it, then you buy out their rights – and pay them a fee. Established practice, been happening for years. The third kind of copyright is when you dub music from source to something new – that’s also something that needs clearance. DJ’s in the UK should now have a license to layout music copied from on-line or CD to their hard drive.

Watch out for the websites that say copyright free. This doesn’t not mean the music is free, just licensable. A few people produce nice music with no strings and are happy with perhaps a credit or paypal donation.

What is certain is that it is complicated. It’s easy to try hard and still fail. There are also traps – when a song is written by two people, often the music composer is well known and the lyricist not so – you Google the title and discover it was created a long time ago and the composer has been dead 71 years – great! You use it and then discover the lyricist is still alive, and you have made 20/200/2000 DVDs illegally. It happens. I do quite a bit of music, and have been using romantic piano music in my projects when there is no money for clearance. I did originally intend to use MIDI files (there are some excellent classical ones) BUT again, the person who produced the files owns the copyright, so I’ve been producing some classical piano recordings recently, and the pianist is happy to play a few popular pieces for me, and we just forget it – call it a favour owed.

It’s not really complicated – because you just need the rights. The complicated bit is simply finding who owns them and clearing them. Hence why each country usually has an agency or two who can do it for you.

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