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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Sync or Synchronization Rights and YouTube

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Steve Moore


Whenever a songwriter creates a song it has what’s called a underlying music right that is statutorily copyrighted. There’s NO need to mail it to yourself with a certified return receipt requested as that only creates a “presumption” that you wrote the song at or about the time you mailed it to yourself. Further, one could easily send themselves a LOT of return receipt requested mail sent back to themselves and then steam open the envelope then say “hey I wrote this song a LONG time ago”. So you’re better off filing a copyright with the copyright office as this offers PROOF that you wrote the song first and that also allows you to assert many different rights other than injunctive relief (stop using my song) which you get with a Statutory Copyright. Also a copyright on a song carries a bundle of other rights along with the ability to get statutory damages AND attorneys fees for infringement. But you cannot stop someone from ‘covering’ your song, if you release the song into the public then ANYONE can make a cover recording and just pay you the statutory mechanical royalties for every time the song is sold, and you won’t get ANYTHING when the song gets played on radio, etc – as that goes to the original copyright owner as a performance of the underlying musical work.

However, synchronization rights which are included in that bundle mentioned infra, they are completely different than most rights. Synchronization refers to the right to allow the music to be synchronized with a visual image. For example, when music is used in the background of a television show or film, or placed on a music video like on YouTube, the creator of that video or film must receive the permission of the copyright holder of the music. Typically, that permission is given through a synchronization license agreement and that usually means that you should get it in WRITING and also pay a reasonable fee. If you’re not exactly getting millions of hits on your YouTube page then the copyright owner should not demand too much money, but they may have the right to just say NO especially if your VIDEO or whatever you using the audio for is not what the writer and/or publisher who owns the song had in mind for the song. And yes, there are many different types of clauses in publishing agreements that will restrict the right of the publisher to use their songs in things such as political, maybe religious or other uses in videos that may be, well let’s say not so nice.

So how do you get the rights for sync? There are some companies that will assist you with this or you can just contract the publisher and/or songwriter (or in essence the copyright owner) which you can find out who that is via the Copyright office. And then just contact them and ASK – “can I use the song on my YouTube video and for how much”? Once you’ve got that in writing and you’ve paid some sort of consideration whether it’s a one time fee (usually the case) or promise something in return like maybe royalties then you should be able to get a license – but you’d need to have a partnership agreement with YouTube or some way of getting paid for your YouTube videos or you won’t have ANY way of making money off that YouTube video!

Good luck and remember that IF you want to get a partnership agreement with YouTube you MUST have sync rights to ALL of your songs that you COVER and make into a video.  That doesn't mean you can't make a fan video, etc - but if you want to do it right, then just follow the instructions above!


Thursday, December 16, 2010

How to get paid for YouTube Spins - Sound Exchange

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Steve Moore, B.A. J.D. Author of "The Truth about the Music Business"