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Old February 22nd, 2005, 11:57 AM   #1
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Music for the Amazing Race application video???

We're putting together an application video for CBS's Amazing Race show.
We'd like to use the Mission Impossible theme. Is this illegal in this use?
My thinking is that there's some kind of expired statute of limitation for using these old songs? The original song was from 1966.
Thx
-Cjh
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Old February 22nd, 2005, 12:06 PM   #2
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Okay, standard disclaimer: you're not my client, this isn't legal advice, for an answer upon which you can rely you should consult an attorney.

Statutes of limitations address the maximum time limit in which you can seek judicial redress for a specific violation of law. For example, in California, breach of written contract has a 4 year statute of limitations, meaning if you want to sue someone for breach, the breach must have occured within 4 years of the suit being filed.

This, of course, is irrelevant to your question -- if you infringe, the infringement will occur as soon as you make your tape. Accordingly, your concern is not whether the statute of limitations applies (it doesn't), but whether the Mission Impossible theme is protected by copyright, and whether your proposed use would infringe.

The music is, almost certainly, protected by copyright. In 1966, the term of copyright was 27 years with a single extension of an additional 27 years. However, in 1978, the US adopted the Berne Convention and changed the term of copyright to life of the author plus 50 years. The Mission Impossible music would either have been subject to the renewal term or gotten the benefit of the new term.

As to whether what you want to do is an infringement, the short answer is, "yes." However, it is quite possible that what you're proposing would come within fair use, either on its own or as a parody (Note: this is NOT my legal opinion -- I don't provide them to non-clients, nor could I provide a competent opinion without, at minimum, seeing your video).

Of course, even if what you propose to do is an infringement of copyright, you will need to determine for yourself whether it's something you want to do, e.g. is it likely that the rights owners would be inclined to prosecute the infringement.

By the way, I'm a HUGE Amazing Race fan as it involves the two things I love to do most: travel internationally and make travel videos. Good luck!
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Old February 22nd, 2005, 12:27 PM   #3
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Thanks, I guess I don't have my legal terminology down. What I meant to say is "expired copyright".
I know in the highly unlikely chance that we do get selected, CBS puts the application videos on their website and that's where it would most likely cause legal problems. Using the MI music or music very much like that is pivotal to our video theme.
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Old February 22nd, 2005, 02:59 PM   #4
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It is extremely unlikely that the MI theme copyright has expired. Remember, too, that you're not only concerned with the copyright on the music, but also with the copyright for whatever recording you use (unless you play the instruments yourself). If you were to go ahead and do this and you're selected, CBS would have a number of options -- they could simply not use your audition tape on the website, they could replace the music with something else, they could make the determination that what you've done falls within fair use parody, or they could obtain a license to use the music. As I recall, MI was a CBS show; it's quite possible that CBS owns the copyright.

Would it be an Impossible Mission to prepare two versions of the video, one with the MI theme and one for CBS to use just in case?

I don't know the level of your production skills, but another option might be to score your own music that "feels" like MI, but, nonetheless, doesn't infringe. This is done quite frequently.
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