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Old March 1st, 2006, 09:57 AM   #1
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What do you do about ASCAP?

As you probably noticed, I am new to this board and know very little about DV production or editing. I have been reading many posts and am gaining a better understanding of the subject. I will probably spend most of the time lirking in the shadows.

I am not a videographer or photographer and in general have very little to do with this industry. 30+ years ago I ran video for a church and did some work with video in the Army in the late 70s. I am a DJ and have owned a mobile DJ company for the past 12 years. I have been considering doing photo montages for my wedding clients, but am in the early preparation stages.

I have viewed many of the wedding videos and photo montages posted by members of this site and must first say I was impressed and excited at what I saw. I usually do not get to see the end products.

I provided the above information to make it clear that I do not have a clue. On the DJ boards, we tend to eat our young when they ask questions that appear to be stupid.

My question: Many of the videos and photo montages use copyright music. Although rare in the DJ industry, there have been instances where ASCAP or BMI have prosecuted DJs for using ripped CDs. How do you get around ASCAP and BMI in using this music for your final product or is this a non-issue?
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Old March 1st, 2006, 10:15 AM   #2
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OK someone can delete the above post. I should have done a search before posting. But at the time, I was not very familiar with the board set up.
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Old March 1st, 2006, 10:32 AM   #3
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Greetings, Stan. I'm kind of a 'newbie' on this forum myself, but I'd still like to say, "Welcome!"

From what little information I've read on here, and other forums, the subject of music copyright (legalities) and use is a rather sensitive and tight-lipped one. I know, on another forum, I asked a similar question and got zero responses. One member, I point-blank asked the question of who he got permission from to use some copyrighted music on his online streaming demo and he not only removed the demo video, but removed his post.

I'm trying to do the right thing here by asking the questions and doing the research, but it seems to be a don't-ask-don't-tell kind of environment. "Yeah, these are the things you should be doing, but don't quote me on that...." Make sense? I must say, though, there is more information on this site regarding the subject than I've seen anywhere else.

There are a couple of really good resources posted somewhere on this forum with direct links to BMI and ASCAP. But, getting information from those sites is like finding a cure for the common cold. I sent an e-mail to BMI for more information, but still haven't gotten a response. However, I'm sure if I sold a video to a customer with some copyrighted music on it, I'd be hearing from their attorneys in record time. Or would I? You really never know and nobody's going to tell you the odds.

I do know, from what I've gleaned, that there are two licenses to be concerned with for using commercial music on a video: Sychronization rights and Master Use. Now, what the "fees" are or what forms to fill out to whom is still up for grabs. One of the forms I looked at, for "general usage," quoted a figure of 1.75% as a fee on the total gross revenue of the product. Well, that seems fair. But, it may be TOTALLY different (and I'm sure it is) for sychronization and master use.

It's rather discouraging to those of us who want to make a quality product and see to it those talents who contributed to the project get compensated. But, it seems to be about as easy to do as to get a green card from the INS (and I have personal experience with that!). Yeah, you could hire someone to handle it for you, but why should you have to?

I hope your fair better in your query. And, if you find out more, please post it here or e-mail me directly.

Good luck!

Ed.
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Old March 1st, 2006, 10:53 AM   #4
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as long as you obtain your licenses directly from the publisher and pay the publisher directly, i think you do not have to worry about ASCAP.

someone please chime in and contradict me if i'm incorrect on this account. i don't claim to be any kind of expert. i've only done this procedure twice now. it is so much easier to purchase royalty-free music with licenses and be done with the whole issue. there's plenty of good music out there.

the reason that it is so hard to get good information on these issues is because licensing procedures have not caught up to the changes in use wrought by the digital revolution. the younger generations of users feel entitled to their "mash-ups" and so far, the elders have not been able to do much to stop them. like the hydra, one site is shut down, and several new ones sprout heads. what was once considered illegal use is so rampant on free video and music sites that it has become somewhat of a large unresolved gray area. and that's the reason good information is not only hard to come by, what is there, is highly contested.
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Old March 1st, 2006, 11:55 AM   #5
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First of all welcome to both Stan and Edward. I'm new to this board also, but not new to the world of music licensing. I am a music publisher an music supervisor. I deal with licensing on both end.

~~ Sorry for the lengthy post. I want to give as much as I can so you and everyone else with similar concerns can have a place to start. This is by no means everything. Things change from project to project. ~~

Answers to your "how to do it":
There are no gray areas when using someone's music. You have to get permission. Even if you don't get caught, it's wrong.

Now as for ASCAP and BMI, they are not the ones you need to worry about. They are just the performing rights organizations that pay royalties to songwriter, composers and publishers. It's the copyright owners that you will have to deal with if you use their music without permission and payment.

If you want to use a music in your production, you can use ASCAP and BMI to find contact information for the music publisher. They are the ones you will have to send your synchronization request form to. Your form will have all the details of your project and your intended use of the song. They will evaluate your request and then reply with a quote. Your fee will be determined by several factors. How much of the song your are going to use. Where you plan to show your film (i.e., film festivals, theatrical release, DVD, cable TV, etc.), which territories (US, Canada, Europe, Worldwide or a combination of territories) and more. You will have about 90 days (this varies) to decide if you can afford the fee before the quote expires.

This works the same for the master use license. You will have to contact the record label or the owner of the master of the version of the song you would like to use. If you plan to get a band or musician to record a new version, you do not need to contact the owner of the master.

In both cases (publishing and master) you might be dealing with the songwriter who owns both. This can work in your favor because they usually do not quote fees as high as a major publisher or label. Some songwriters will give what is called a gratis licenses (free use for a specific period of time) with options for a fee at a later time. Some publisher and master owners will also give a gratis license for festivals for one year in the US only. It varies.

You can see a sample synch request form that I use when I work as a music supervisor (click here). The master use request form is basically the same. The best way to start is by calling the publisher and record label. They will give you the most current fax number and contact person to fax the form to. If you do not have a working relationship with these companies it may take a while for them to respond and your fees may be higher. It may be wise to hire a music supervisor who has a working relationship with the key players and who can negotiate a lower fee.

The legal issue of using music without permission and payment:
Once again, there are no gray areas when using someone else's music (Intellectual Property). If you hear music in your production, get permission. You must follow what I stated above.

One thing that most people in your situation do not understand is if the filmmaker tries to get distribution the distributor will require the producer to hand over what is known as the "Music Rights Package". This package includes all the music clearance documents. Distributors will not (should not) take a risk by distributing a film without having these detailed documents. You would hate to lock picture, have festivals lined up and then get a cease and desist from the owners attorneys.
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Old March 1st, 2006, 12:18 PM   #6
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Thank you so much, Meryem and Dominique. Clear, concise guidance I can understand. It's rather intimidating to enter this revolutionizing industry only to be met with such hurdles. Yeah, I've used "royalty free" music and my son's own music ad nauseum, but you just can't beat the flexibility of all the commercial music that's out there. And, again, I want to do it right.

It would appear to be an upward climb to record the wedding footage, start editing and then wait for a response from the publisher/artist. A weekend edit could last weeks or months with this process. Interesting....

Again, many thanks for your responses.

Ed.
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Old March 1st, 2006, 12:30 PM   #7
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Edward,
It doesn't always take a long time. I've faxed synch/master use request to publishers and record labels and have received a response the same day. Some may take a few days. If an urgency is put on it, you can get your response fairly quickly.

If using popular music in your video productions are vital to providing a quality product to your customer, it might be wise to get someone to do the legal work for you. Someone that has contacts and can call a publisher and tell them this is for a wedding and not for commercial release could not only get you a quick quote but also a lower fees. Having a relationship with the publishers and master owners goes a long way in this business.
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Old March 1st, 2006, 12:36 PM   #8
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You're an angel, Dominique. You're also a "neighbor" (in Texas terms). I'll be sending you an e-mail soon.

Thanks.

Ed.
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