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Taking Care of Business
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Old September 9th, 2003, 10:53 PM   #1
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Obtaining Licenses for Copyrighted Material

Ok, so after all the discussion about how putting copyrighted material on a tape for personal use or for a wedding is or isn't bad or if you'll be prosecuted or not... after all is said and done, how do you go about getting all clear for putting a song into a video you've made?

Specifically, there's a song that's very necessary to a short that some friends and I made (since it's a reference to a movie where the song is important). We want to reshoot the whole short and make it as professional as we can and have it as sort of a business card type thing. But while we don't care if the current version has the song in it as it's an amatuer effort and not worth the effort for anyone to get upset over it, we do care if the version we show everyone in an effort to bring us actual, profitable business has copyright violations in it.

I searched copyright.gov and found the registration number of the piece and the company it's registered to, but what now? Do we just find a number for the company, call it, and say "Hey, we're just some shmucks who want to make a little short film and we want to license this song?" Does the distribution of said short matter?

How do these things happen?
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Old September 10th, 2003, 07:20 AM   #2
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Distribution does matter. If it is for a broadcast show, or a big screen feature, you will spend much more. Contact BMI or ASCAP. These are the places to start, and will be able to give you license... Well, maybe not GIVE. Rather, they will LEASE it to you.
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Old September 10th, 2003, 07:29 AM   #3
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Jon,

I've been trying to get adaptation rights to a short story for awhile now. I've written both e-mail and snail mail letters to the publisher...seven letters/messages total so far...and not one response.

Amazing how they won't even write back to say "Buzz off."
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Old September 10th, 2003, 01:13 PM   #4
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Ok, an update.

I found everything I needed at BMI, however, they only handle licensing of performance rights. Thankfully, they very clearly mentioned this and that the "Synchronization Right" needs to be gotten through the publisher (which, conveniently, is supplied along with the other information in the BMI database), so I didn't waste my time asking them about something they don't deal with.

Oddly enough, the contact email given for this publisher was a mindspring.com email address, so maybe that's not the best way to get in touch with them, but I still sent one anyway. If that doesn't show fruit in a week or so, I'll give them a call.

And as a safeguard and for my own sanity, I also have one of my friends who works at a production house asking his boss what the usual procedure is, since they license a decent amount of stuff.

Man, shouldn't they make it as easy as possible for us to give them money? <g>
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Old September 10th, 2003, 01:59 PM   #5
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It's a nice thought, but I guess it is easier for them to sue you later.
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Old September 10th, 2003, 09:15 PM   #6
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You know. I was honestly expecting this to take weeks -- at least -- considering John's response. However, I have gotten no less than 2 replies today regarding this issue after my inital contact. It's good to get a straight and quick answer.

Having said that, they don't much like the idea of giving out internet distribution rights to even a portion of the song (since I told them it would only be approximately 30 seconds of the song). And considering the song we want is a rather popular song (it could be considered the theme to a popular 80s movie. I'll let you guess), the contact said it could very difficult and expensive to get the rights.

However, if there's no other reason for this thread, it's this: Make the calls and send the emails. You'll never know if you can get the rights until you ask people and make some noise (John obviously notwithstanding. <vbg>).
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