Here’s my take on it. On t


Here’s my take on it. On the one hand, according to some, it’s completely illegal, no question about it. On the other, there seems to be a fair way to return royalties to the copyright holders, (for example by purchasing tracks on iTunes or Napster), which is unlikely to be challenged by the ‘copyright police’ (and to my knowledge has not been to date). Who’s better informed? What is the best expression of the law – how it’s written or how it’s enforced? I’m convinced it’s a gray area not properly addressed by the law and therefore is not being enforced.

But at the end of the day, what is actually ‘fair’ and ‘ethical’? Is the only ethical course to obey the ‘law’? (Not according to Amnesty International!)

What can you do?

On the one hand you can try to get permission, it will take a lot of effort and time, and you may be priced out of the market, denied use or even ignored. On the other hand by purchasing tracks on a per-use basis you are returning a ‘fair’ payment to the artist. The artist, however, may not agree the price you paid on iTunes is fair IF they challenged you, and you did not have their EXPRESS permission to use it. But in my opinion, why would you need permission for such usage, when it is virtually the same use as when it was played at the wedding in the first place? Haven’t they already given permission for ‘personal enjoyment of individuals and small gatherings’ by putting their song onto the open market and allowing it to be played by DJs and radio stations? (Only, DJs have a way of paying a fair price and easy method to use it (e.g. ASCAP fees) and videographers do not.)

I personally feel that individual purchase of tracks via iTunes or Napster is a better way of returning royalties to the individual artist(s) whose work you are using than paying ASCAP fees. If they had the sense to come up with a special licensing arrangement to allow people to buy songs from online providers for this type of use, I think a whole new revenue stream could open up to them. (I am sure consumers doing wedding videos would happily pay a little more to have their favourite song on a wedding video instead of some generic instrumental ‘royalty-free’ piece.)

However, the best way to clear this up is for the music industry to define clearly what their position is on using their music in commercially made domestic videos for limited distribution. I hope that they have the sense to realize that the best way in the "limited distribution commercial digital video services made for personal pleasure" realm (e.g. wedding videos and family reunions, etc.) is to work with software providers to make it feasible and fair for everyone to enjoy the music they like in the context they want it, while reasonably, efficiently and fairly returning dues to the copyright owners without fear of prosecution.

In the meantime the jury is out on the topic until someone decides to sue a small-time honest videographer who is willing to fight it tooth and nail in the courts. I hope that the fat cats don’t win that one, but as has been said before, the one with the best lawyer will probably win. The fact that that case has not been brought to the courts is probably the biggest eveidence of where the music publishers stand on this issue. They don’t want to deal with it because they have bigger fish to fry (at present, anyway). The problem for us ‘small fry’ comes when and if they change their minds on the matter… for better or worse.

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