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Old September 28th, 2012, 11:21 AM   #1
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Experiences in obtaining Synchronization Rights

This post falls under the "Event" category in the U.S.

I'm contemplating the commercialization of my video recordings of school choir concerts for DVD sales. For audio only recordings of the performance of copyrighted works, I know about obtaining mechanical licenses from, e.g., Harry Fox, and calculating the related royalties.

I'm less knowledgable about the mechanics of obtaining synchronization (synch) rights that are necessary for video recordings of the works. I know generally that those rights are obtained from the publishers. But what I don't know is what those royalty rates are, even ballpark figures, e.g., # cents per song per copy of video.

Has anyone here been down this route and, if so, would be willing to share their experiences in obtaining sync rights and what ballpark of royalty rates I'm looking at?

I've found a number of small businesses that do audio recordings of such concerts and they do mention obtaining mechanical licenses. Some of these businesses mention video as an "add on", but don't say anything about the necessary synch licenses. Hmmm.

Wanting to play by the rules...
Steve
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Old September 28th, 2012, 09:31 PM   #2
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Re: Experiences in obtaining Synchronization Rights

i've done a similar thing for our high school marching band.

easiest route: there are companies that will seek out sync licenses on your behalf. that may be the easiest route, but you pay them to do it for you. CopyCat Music Licensing (in racine, wi) was one such company, and i think they wanted something like $200 or $250 plus the sync fees.

what i did: i emailed the publishers directly and explained that we were a non-for-profit group promoting the music programs in our high school and that the DVDs would be distributed to the musicians and their families. i had read somewhere that you really shouldn't ask for sync license for free (it's taken as an insult) but that a token amount would show that you respect their copyright. so i offered $25 for the sync licenses (for 100 DVDs).

the result: one publisher granted us free sync licenses; i think he wanted to promote his composition & drills to other marching bands. 2 other publishers accepted my offer. and the last 2 publishers never responded; so i had to remove those parts from the DVD.

the whole process took 2-4 weeks if i recall corectly.

good luck, and please let us know how it turns out.
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Old September 28th, 2012, 10:03 PM   #3
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Re: Experiences in obtaining Synchronization Rights

Roberto, that's exactly the kind of information that I need. Thanks for sharing your experience.

I'm not sure why you characterized CopyCat as the easiest route. The way you described e-mail communications with publishers sounds like a relatively painless route, too.

In your same example, did you also obtain mechanical rights and, if so, were your results similarly mixed or better?

Cheers.
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Old September 28th, 2012, 10:25 PM   #4
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Re: Experiences in obtaining Synchronization Rights

well the 3rd party route is easier because they do all the legwork... finding who the publisher is, which department/person handles sync licenses, emails back and forth, etc.

when i did this myself, it was more than just one email. before i was able to send it, i had to figure out who the publisher was, how to get a hold of them, send the email, respond to their questions, etc. it was truely more time on my part.

so it's a trade off of my time vs. money.


BTW-same tradeoff exists for mechanical licenses. you mentioned Harry Fox Agency in your original post. that's the easiest route because you just fill in an on-line form and they do the rest. the thing is, you have to pay them about $15 per song for that service. we were making 70 audio cds and most songs were under 5 minutes, so the standard rate would be 9.1c. so for each song, $6.37 would've gone to the publisher and $15 to HFA. that is, 70% of our cost would've gone to HFA. that didnt feel right to me, so i did the legwork and got mech licenses for 21 of the 30 selections directly from the publisher. the other 9 were ones i got no response from or couldnt figure out who owned it or had a policy to go thru HFA. in any case, it saved us over $300 in fees to HFA. nothing against them, but for a small non-for-profit organization that's huge. (in fact, we budgeted $15 per CD but ended up at an actual of only $10 per CD, mostly due to the reduced licensing costs). as with the sync licenses, it's a trade off of time versus money. note that we saved even more than this because 2 of the publishers (that owned 5 of the songs) granted us mech licenses at no cost. very very nice of them, and i think it's because they understand we were doing this for the high school musicians.

Last edited by Roberto Diaz; September 28th, 2012 at 10:27 PM. Reason: grammatical corrections
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Old September 29th, 2012, 02:31 PM   #5
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Re: Experiences in obtaining Synchronization Rights

Roberto, thanks again for the picture of reality. It appears that the licensing isn't such a big deal, it's the legwork to get the license. And the licensing costs per disc (in your case, at least) aren't insignificant, either.

Cheers to you.
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Old September 29th, 2012, 04:43 PM   #6
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Re: Experiences in obtaining Synchronization Rights

Steven you have to remember the sync license is just to put it on a DVD with your footage. That's perfect as long as it never hits the web. For that you need a broadcast license too.

I am sure many of us would be real interested in all the steps to get all the necessary licenses in order to place one's work anywhere.
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Old September 29th, 2012, 08:58 PM   #7
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Re: Experiences in obtaining Synchronization Rights

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chip Thome View Post
Steven you have to remember the sync license is just to put it on a DVD with your footage. That's perfect as long as it never hits the web. For that you need a broadcast license too.

I am sure many of us would be real interested in all the steps to get all the necessary licenses in order to place one's work anywhere.
Thanks, Chip. I'm not unmindful of the scope of license. I was really curious, and Roberto delivered, about the mechanics of going about the procurement of the sync license in particular.

A primer on the various licenses for wedding and event videographers would be nice. The information exists across scattered threads here and other places on the internet, along with unhelpful fodder about what the law should be (but isn't), but not necessarily all put together in one place.
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Old September 29th, 2012, 10:39 PM   #8
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Re: Experiences in obtaining Synchronization Rights

briefly...

when you or your group performed someone else's song, you audio recorded it, and you want to publish it on an audio CD, you need a *mechanical license*. (basically, you are paying for the right to use their composition.) there are standard per-cd rates based on song duration, and publishers cannot refuse you a license (assuming the song has been released before by someone somewhere).

when you or your group performed someone else's song, you video recorded it, and you want to publish it on a DVD, you need a *synchronization license*. (basically, you are paying for the right to use their composition as background music.) there are not standard rates and publishers can refuse you the license i believe.

there is another license you need to get when you use a song someone else performed in either case above. (basically, you are paying for the right to use a recording of their performance.)
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