I know since my post last week you all have committed to memory the differences between a musical work copyright and a sound recording copyright. Right? Anybody? Is the mic on? If you haven’t taken the time to delve in depth, be sure to refresh yourself on the post from last week HERE. Now that we are all caught up, let’s look at the question my reader asked about putting a cover song on YouTube.
A reader wanted to create a “Tonight Show” type feeling, three to four-minute segment, in order to promote a service. Between the interview segments, the video would cut to a studio band playing a bit from a song they did not write – a cover tune. Will they be committing copyright infringement, if permission is not received? For purposes of this discussion, let’s assume the song is not in the public domain, is not controlled by a creative commons license and is the band’s own special take on Let It Go from the Disney movie Frozen.
Once a song (the musical work copyright) has been published, anyone in the world is free to create their own version of that song (i.e. creating a new sound recording copyright in the way they make the notes and lyrics sound) without seeking permission from the copyright owner. Great news, right? Yes, it’s great news in the fact that the copyright owner cannot stop you from making your own recording; however, the copyright in the musical work is now subject to compulsory licensing dictated by statute. Therefore, in order to create a cover version and publish your version of Let It Go you would need to get a compulsory (said another way, mechanical) license over the musical work copyright. Most can be obtained by going thru the Harry Fox Agency, HERE.
But, wait … there’s more. You also need a synchronization license to visually synch moving pictures with the new sound recording you just made. The publisher of the song is the holder that you must seek permission from to synch music with film.
So, Ryanne are you telling me that every version of children in the backseats of minivans singing Let It Go from Frozen has taken the time to secure these type of permissions to display their future Idina Menzel? No, I am not saying that at all, but what I am saying is that from a strictly legal standpoint and to be free from copyright infringement – yes the parents should have done so.
It does not take much time to see there are more covers of songs than can be counted on YouTube. For the most part, it seems the music publishers are okay and now almost expect there to be covers. It would take a great deal of resources on Disney’s part to try to track down every version of a little kid singing Let It Go and to file complaints. And, what would that really do besides make Disney look like a bad guy to the parents of the wanna-be Disney princess? From a marketing standpoint, it surely has not hurt sales to have every kid in the world singing the award-winning song. For a piece on the impact Frozen has made to the Disney catalog of creative property read this article HERE. It’s already at 1.19 Billon!
To lessen the tension of a company’s need to police their work to be fairly compensated and appearing to be villains to society, YouTube implemented the Content ID Program. The Content ID Program gives music owners and publishers some compensation for allowing their product to stay on YouTube.
Instead of sending out a takedown notice, the copyright owner has instructed YouTube to place an advertisement in front of any work YouTube identifies as possible copyright infringement. YouTube then sends a part of the revenues from the advertisement to the music companies. This is solely based on the policy of the company that holds the copyright in the music. Therefore, there is some risk involved that you may receive a copyright takedown notice from YouTube because for whatever reason the music company has elected to not take part in the monetization part of the Content ID Program.
What is the risk? The risk of copyright infringement is there, but the music you are wanting to use might be under an agreement for monetization with YouTube under their Content ID Program. The bad news is that you do not know if the music is under that type of agreement until you put it up there. If it is not, it is possible you will receive a takedown notice, or a freeze out, (See what I did there? Frozen reference, get it?) from YouTube. After an account receives several takedown notices, then an account could be suspended. If you’re an individual this might not be such a big deal. But, if you are a company that uses YouTube as another one of your social media tools, then not having an account could be devastating to your business.
The safest area to play in is to get licensing so you can properly build a YouTube Video. Do You Want to Create Some Content? I should probably chill with the Frozen references. 🙂 Music publishers want their products out there. A request that details exactly how you plan to use the video, whether you plan on making any money and the subject of the video may earn you a gratis license. Now you have the information to sweep in and rescue your band or creative content from the snares of potential copyright infringement.
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