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Remember the hubbub with Napster or LimeWire? People were sharing music files without having the right to do so. It's possible some of you might be currently breaking the same laws without even knowing it, and as photographers (and business owners) it means your rights are even more sensitive.
Think of it this way; when you give your client their images on a CD, they own the rights to the CD, but not to the photos. When you download an album on iTunes, you own the album, but not the rights to the music. This holds true for any audio file including MP3, .WAV, or other musical medium. Here are some quick tips to make sure you aren't violating any music licensing or copyright laws.
There are a few easy resources to use to help keep you on the music copyright straight and narrow:
- Read up on the "The Photographer's Guide to Music Licensing" and "Pause Before You Play" for general information on how to use music.
- Watch "Are You Tuned in to Music Licensing?" a free PPA-Member Essentials webinar on music licensing.
- Need more specifics? How about a step-by-step guide for using music in your studio?
If you are like many photographers and want to combine copyrighted music with your images, you must obtain two different types of copyright licenses. Yes, two. First, you'll need a "master use" license which can be granted by the record label for use of the actual recording. Then, you'll need a "synchronization license" from the songwriter or music publisher to cover the use of the music in conjunction with images. (Sounds complicated, right? But don't worry; it's much easier than you might think, just read on!)
A few pieces of information to keep in mind: the music authors/owners are under no obligation to provide you with a license. The decision of whether or not to license a song (and how much to charge) always remains at the discretion of the copyright owner. Also, the licensing departments of these companies are geared primarily toward working with members of the motion picture and television industries, so be prepared to educate them regarding your particular use for and in your photography business. A little bit of explaining will go a long ways.
Here are the five steps involved in securing the appropriate music licenses:
- Finalize which song(s) you wish to use on your slide show or videos.
- Determine who owns the master use rights to each song (or songs) you will use. This is normally as simple as looking at the CD liner notes or at any online music service for the label information, such as iTunes. Contacts for the major labels are listed on the Music Licensing section of ppa.com.
- Next, find out who owns the synchronization rights to the musical composition you have your eyes (or ears?) set on. This will likely be a publishing company representing the songwriter. But if you don't find the liner notes from the CD or on iTunes, you can find that information by matching the song names with publishing companies on ASCAP's ACE database (www.ascap.com), BMI (www.bmi.com) or through the U.S. Copyright Office (www.copyright.gov). It takes a few minutes of manual labor, but you as a photographer understand more than anyone else the importance of that extra careful step.
- Contact the owners of both the master use and synchronization rights. In some cases, this will be the same company. You will need to explain your project and ask for the appropriate license. Expect questions regarding the number and geographical distribution of your project and be prepared to negotiate on price. It's not complicated, but takes putting a little bit of time into connecting with the right people.
- Sign the various licensing agreements and tender payment. Remember to keep copies for your records should any questions come up in the future and you are set!
If you (or your clients) are flexible with your musical selections, royalty free music is a very cost-efficient and time-saving alternative. There are many options out there, so unless you are set on a very specific piece, you can dive in and explore the musical horizons and pick and fancy at your leisure.
Last tip on this topic: remember to leverage your PPA Perks & Savings on music licenses (this is a PPA-member exclusive). You get access to great deals with a discounted rate on XM for Business, 20% off royalty-free music with Stock20 and 10% off songs with Triple Scoop Music, so... Enjoy!
But that doesn't mean it's not important to know what's going on. Will a legal decision affect your business? Is there a law being debated that will help or hinder your copyrights? As the only professional photographic association with a full-time Copyright & Government Affairs staff that maintains a regular presence on Capitol Hill, PPA has dedicated itself to protecting and defending your intellectual property and livelihood. We can help you focus your attention where needed.
Here is a quick look at some important issues you should be watching.
We were disappointed by some of the heavy-handed tactics used by opponents of the bills. The objective of those tactics was obviously to create fear and hysteria, while at the same time spreading false information about what the bills would actually accomplish. We want you to know the following:
- Both pieces of legislation (SOPA in the Senate and PIPA in the House) targeted off-shore pirating of works produced in the U.S.
- We do not feel that the measures were perfect--no legislation is. But the greater good demands that measures be taken to protect the rights of creators like you.
- It is true that those mega-corporations opposed to the bill could possibly have been inconvenienced by the legislation. It is their job to make money, and their actions merely represented those purposes.
- It is not true that the public would have been deprived of works to which it has rights, but rather, only those works that are copyrighted and being sold illegally by rogue off-shore websites.
Since 2006, PPA has been advocating for an alternative dispute resolution system like this in an effort to help photographers better defend their copyrights. We have recently submitted comments to the U.S. Copyright Office, highlighting the benefits of such a system over the existing federal court process...which requires federal registration of an image, a lengthy trial in the federal courts, and the possibility of a copyright owner walking away with only a meager amount of damages.
Read the full article here.
"PPA is pleased to see a number of its advocacy priorities now become top priorities by the copyright rulemaking body," says David Trust, PPA's chief executive officer. "We look forward to working with the Register over the next few months to ensure photographers' voices continue to be heard as proposals and proposed rule changes are released."
Read more here.