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Shooting non-repeatable events: weddings, recitals, plays, performances...


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Old November 23rd, 2008, 10:13 PM   #1
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Weddings & Music

I have just recently started a production company and will be doing some weddings while I am getting the company rolling. I have noticed many of the wedding "highlight reels" and "trailers" feature copyrighted music. Is this something that could possibly cause a legal issue? Or is it because the videos are made for home viewing that it falls into a gray area? Also if it is in the gray area what are the implications of posting a video with copyrighted material in your online portfolio?
Thank you for your input, it is greatly appreciated!
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Old November 23rd, 2008, 11:27 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by Andrew Allsbury View Post
I have just recently started a production company and will be doing some weddings while I am getting the company rolling. I have noticed many of the wedding "highlight reels" and "trailers" feature copyrighted music. Is this something that could possibly cause a legal issue? Or is it because the videos are made for home viewing that it falls into a gray area? Also if it is in the gray area what are the implications of posting a video with copyrighted material in your online portfolio?
Thank you for your input, it is greatly appreciated!
There's nothing gray about it. Using copyright-protected music in this fashion without the applicable licenses and/or permissions constitutes copyright infingement.

The rights protected by copyright in the U.S. include:

The right to make copies.
The right to prepare derivative works.
The right to publicly display.
The right to publicly perform.
The right to distribute.

What you're describing violates all of these rights and would constitute copyright infringement.
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Old November 24th, 2008, 01:23 AM   #3
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I'm currently in the process of re-editing both the highlight videos I've shot thus far so as not to include any copyright-protected music before I put it on my site. Not worth risking a lawsuit and losing your shiny new company over, no matter how small a fish you think you are.
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Old November 24th, 2008, 04:31 PM   #4
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Thanks for the info gentlemen, does anyone have a good source for inexpensive or free royalty free music?
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Old November 29th, 2008, 04:10 PM   #5
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I'm a big fan of StackTraxx from Digital Juice.

Unfortunately, 99% of wedding videographers use popular songs, so that's what all the brides expect.
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Old December 1st, 2008, 09:38 AM   #6
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It also gives an edge of danger to an otherwise pretty boring field...
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Old December 3rd, 2008, 12:28 PM   #7
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I encourage all my competitors to use StackTraxx from Digital Juice.

It matches nicely with the poorly composed, out of focus footage and tacky template titles! :)
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Old December 3rd, 2008, 04:06 PM   #8
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Just my 2 cents, since I've stayed out of every other copyright and music thread on here:

For my personally stuff I have decided not to use only music that I can obtain the rights to, rather from a royalty stock sites of friends who make music and are willing to donate some music. When I am editing for other's I'm sort of stuck using the music that is provided to me by them, since that pays the bills, but for my own weddings I am doing this because -

1) It's a bigger challenge as an editor. It forces me to use more audio from the day-off so I have to take extra care in making sure it's clear at the time it is being recorded. It forces me to think more in terms of storytelling than simply laying all usable clips on a timeline and sticking dissolves on them.

2) I want to be good enough that brides and grooms want me to do the job because I am good at it, and hire me despite their favourite songs not being included on the DVD. It's the same deal as price: you don't want your clients to book you because you're cheap, you want to be good enough that they think, "We need to find the money to hire this guy." I don't want someone to hire me because I'll put any song they want in the edit, I want them to hire me because they like the way I tell the story of their day.

The disadvantage, of course, is that everyone else is using whatever music the client wants.

So, we'll see how that goes, but in my case I value the security of knowing that I won't have any video with music that I'm not supposed to use online where anyone can see it. I guess everyone just has to evaluate their - and I don't know quite the term to use here - risk tolerance - and do what they feel is right. Just as long as we don't kid ourselves with the standard excuses ("I bought the song from iTunes so the artist is getting paid anyway," and "It's just for private use even though I posted it online to advertise my business") I certainly won't hold it against any other videographer.
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Old December 3rd, 2008, 05:22 PM   #9
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The legality of using copyrighted music without either permission of the artist or paid consideration can't be argued, it's illegal. That being said, the general rule of thumb for years has been that if you're passing out a handful of wedding DVD's the FCC generally isn't going to look your way. That's not to say there haven't been cases of wedding guys getting busted, but they are few and far between and I've only heard it told as a "friend of an aunt who knows this guy" kinda thing.

When doing corporate jobs, and especially when doing broadcast work such as commercials avoid using copyrighted music at all cost. This is generally when you get in hot water.

Recently I've started questioning how smart it is of me to have samples up on my website because now it's out there and openly known that I'm using it in my weddings. Before the internet, the FCC would have had to go into someone's home and watched their wedding to find the offense, but now we're plastering our illegal use all over the place for any and all to see. I'm beginning to question my sanity on this one, but I don't want to lose the huge benefit of having samples of my work on the site.

I have to admit, I do lose sleep over this issue and it's always gnawing at the back of my brain, but my videos wouldn't be 1/4 of what they are without the music. If the FCC comes down on me, I lose my business which is my livelihood, and I could potentially lose much more. I don't wanna think about it anymore, pardon me while I go edit to another legally protected piece of music.

**EDIT**
I've often wondered where the heavy hitters, the Still Motions of the world are on this issue especially since they are pulling in larger sums of cash than a lot of the rest of us and therefore may be a bigger target for the FCC or whatever regulatory board is up in their neck of the woods. I know Patrick and the boys (and girls) use protected music like most of us, but how do they feel about the risks, and what steps if any do they take to insure against losing everything to a FCC shakedown. This thought isn't limited to Patrick but to anyone who is running a sizable event biz and practicing in the dirty little secret of wedding videos.
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Old December 3rd, 2008, 05:46 PM   #10
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The legality of using copyrighted music without either permission of the artist or paid consideration can't be argued, it's illegal. ... Before the internet, the FCC would have had to go into someone's home and watched their wedding to find the offense, but now we're plastering our illegal use all over the place for any and all to see. I'm beginning to question my sanity on this one, but I don't want to lose the huge benefit of having samples of my work on the site.

I have to admit, I do lose sleep over this issue ...
It's not the FCC that get's involved, nor any law enforcement agency (FBI warning on rental videos not withstanding), at least not until it's to the level of selling bootleg copies at retail. (Got a great deal on a genuine Rofex watch if you're interested!) Copyright infringment is a civil action and it is the owners of the copyright or their agents (such as RIAA or ASCAP/BMI, etc) that (might) take action by suing in civil court when infringment is discovered. Remember just a few months ago when Prince sued the housewife who posted a YouTube video of her toddler dancing in the kitchen to one of his songs? That's how it comes about. The major record labels and music publishers have entire legal staffs charged with searching out infringers and protecting their intellectual property. It may be an urban myth but I've heard tale of the couple who had a 1st anniversary party where they played their wedding video. One of their friends happened to bring a date to the party who in turn happened to be an IP lawyer working for the publisher of one of the songs on the video - guess who got an angry cease-and-desist letter by courier the next day? (Not the couple who insisted on the song, the videographer who created the video bears full legal responsibility for its content.) As I said, it may be an urban legend but it's certainly plausible. One thing is sure - using copyright music without license on one's web page advertising is definitely tickling the dragon's tail, inviting it to turn around and bite. Remember, IP legal aids can use Google to find your site just as easily as potential customers.
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Old December 3rd, 2008, 05:52 PM   #11
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It's not the FCC that get's involved, nor any law enforcement agency (FBI warning on rental videos not withstanding), at least not until it's to the level of selling bootleg copies at retail. (Got a great deal on a genuine Rofex watch if you're interested!) Copyright infringment is a civil action and it is the owners of the copyright or their agents (such as RIAA or ASCAP/BMI, etc) that (might) take action when infringment is discovered. Remember just a few months ago when Prince sued the housewife who posted a YouTube video of her toddler dancing in the kitchen to one of his songs? That's how it comes about. The major record labels and music publishers have entire legal staffs charged with searching out infringers and protecting their intellectual property. It may be an urban myth but I've heard tale of the couple who had a 1st anniversary party where they played their wedding video. One of their friends happened to bring a date to the party who in turn happened to be an IP lawyer working for the publisher of one of the songs on the video - guess who got an angry cease-and-desist letter by courier the next day? (Not the couple who insisted on the song, the videographer who created the video bears full legal responsibility for its content.) As I said, it may be an urban legend but it's certainly plausible. One thing is sure - using copyright music without license on one's web page advertising is definitely tickling the dragon's tail, inviting it to turn around and bite. Remember, IP legal aids can use Google to find your site just as easily as potential customers.
Thanks for clearing that up for me. It's still the same type of problem, just a new Boogie Man to be scared of. I'd always assumed it was the (mostly asleep at the switch) FCC, but now that you say it's IP Lawyers and the RIAA, well, that's even worse. Thanks.

*insert Family Guy FCC song here*
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Old December 4th, 2008, 08:47 AM   #12
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Thanks for the info gentlemen, does anyone have a good source for inexpensive or free royalty free music?
Check out the SmartSound library and the SonicFire Pro software that uses it. They have a vast amount of music in a variety of genres and the software makes it easy to edit the music so the tempo fits your picture's rhythm, the time exactly matches the length of your video segment, add hits and whooshes, etc, to generate a complete soundtrack "made to order." Typical cost is $15 per song for unlimited use buyout rights and you can preview all the pieces online before committing to buy. Another very reasonably priced library with high quality tracks is Magnatunes.
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Old December 15th, 2008, 01:01 PM   #13
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But wouldn't a lawsuit, like the Prince one, be "please stop", and if you stop, it ends there? You (or the website or whatever) would first get a "take down" notice I believe. You take it down, everything is ok. In the Prince/Housewife situation, it looks like she chose to fight back.

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Old December 15th, 2008, 01:19 PM   #14
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But wouldn't a lawsuit, like the Prince one, be "please stop", and if you stop, it ends there? You (or the website or whatever) would first get a "take down" notice I believe. You take it down, everything is ok. In the Prince/Housewife situation, it looks like she chose to fight back.

Jeff
Yes, a "cease-and-desist" demand letter is usually the first step. But that could include a demand for an audit of all of the videos you've produced and sold to clients with payment of royalties on all infringing works found in them. Far more practical to stay legal from the very beginning. Big or small, we all need to play by the rules of the profession, whether you're a casual wedding shooter out in West Bugtussle or 20th Century Fox releasing a hoped-for Christmas blockbuster. I have a problem with small businesses that try to say "We're too small to have to worry about copyright issues, environmental protection, worker safety, fair wage and labour practices (or what have you)." When you hang out your shingle as a working professional, even part-time, you've moved into a ballgame with more serious rules than confront the hobbyist.
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Old December 15th, 2008, 01:22 PM   #15
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But wouldn't a lawsuit, like the Prince one, be "please stop", and if you stop, it ends there? You (or the website or whatever) would first get a "take down" notice I believe. You take it down, everything is ok. In the Prince/Housewife situation, it looks like she chose to fight back.
I'd say that you're missing the huge distinction here, namely that she wasn't making money off her website. When money is involved it becomes a more serious issue.
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