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Graduation DVD

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nsharplesGraduation DVD
by on May 16, 2006 at 7:41:35 pm

I was hired as a videographer for a High School Graduation. The company who hired me will be selling the DVDs to the students, parents etc. I am interested in knowing what process the will have to go through to secure the rights to produce and duplicate the songs performed (Pomp and Circumstance, Star Spangled banner etc). Thanks

Nick Sharples

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Mark SuszkoRe: Graduation DVD
by on May 17, 2006 at 2:33:34 pm

Step one: look questioner in the eye squarely, without blinking.

Step two: Lie.

Step three: collect money from client.

I believe this is true in over 90 percent of these cases.

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ArniepixRe: Graduation DVD
by on May 17, 2006 at 3:24:02 pm

Pomp & Circumstance and the Star Spangled Banner are probably public domain. If they're being played from recorded sources, then the recordings may be copyright protected. If they're being played by a live band or orchestra, then the arrangement may be copyright protected. This might be a good time to find out how the music is going to be played.


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Aanarav SareenRe: Graduation DVD
by on May 17, 2006 at 7:18:56 pm

I don't know how you have worked out the deal with the school, but in the past I have done a few of these any my pricing structure is:

1. Charge $40 per disc for the first 49 copies and out of that offer $5 per disc to the school, so that they encourage selling the DVDs.
2. If the quantity is between 50 and 449, then the price is still $49, but we offer the school an extra $1
3. If the quantity is over 450, then we give them $7.

Why? We get releases from every person involved with the person in ease. In fact, when the graduates sign some sort of graduation document (I forget the name), they include the image release with the other required documents. And the band plays the music, we are OK.

Aanarav Sareen

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mark SuszkoRe: Graduation DVD
by on May 17, 2006 at 11:38:48 pm

"And the band plays the music, we are OK."
Aanarav Sareen

"No, you're not. You are just gambling no one will care."
Mark Suszko

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Aanarav SareenRe: Graduation DVD
by on May 18, 2006 at 10:23:34 pm

[mark Suszko] ""No, you're not. You are just gambling no one will care.""

Should have specified that it is not "music". It's the Star Sprangled Banner and Pomp and Circumstance.

Aanarav Sareen

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mark SuszkoRe: Graduation DVD
by on May 18, 2006 at 11:12:26 pm

Sorry to keep needling about this, but don't tell me you have synch rights, mechanical rights, and an okay from the arranger and the orchestra and their publisher for you to record a playback of their recording of their arrangement of Elgar's music. If you went and got that clearance, I'll eat a bug.

Same for the Anthem; if it was a recorded Anthem being played out of speakers, you did not get the rights to that recording of it. I will bet a Krispy kreme you didn't.

Will someone complain and sue you? Not likely, I'll agree, but certainly not impossible. ASCAP once very publicly ran a mom and pop corner bar out of business for playing Springsteen 45's on the jukebox without paying a license.

Schools and school districts, true or not, are considered fat, rich targets for nuisance lawsuits of every kind, and I'm surprised their lawyers have not commented on any of this to you or the administrator. Were they even consulted? Just trying to keep your head down and hope nobody sues is not a responsible strategy.

But it's also an ethical issue for the person making the DVD's, as well as a business one. It's unlikely, but *possible* that if the rights holders from the music company wanted to, they could sue you for your profit, gear, your house (if that's where your studio is), any assets involved in your production. The odds of that are close to zero, but they DO exist.

You have legal alternatives, you can buy needle-drop versions of "pomp" and the Anthem. You could even contact the rights-holders for the actual records played at the event. it may be they give youy a free passs or a very low fee, just because you played by the rules. granted, running down the rights is often a hard job.

Going ahead and using the music without rights is an active, conscious choice. Size of the project or small amount of profit is no protection. Assuming you can piggy-back off someone else's rights to the material is not wise, as their license doesn't cover the same things your video does.

Am I being chicken little about this? Obsessive? overly-persnickety? Maybe.

Well, I reacted to a blanket statement that was technically false. What you do with the information is up to you. The law stinks, but it is the law; work to change it if you don't like it.

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Aanarav SareenRe: Graduation DVD
by on May 22, 2006 at 7:15:10 am

NOt sure if you are exactly referring to. THe music is being played by the orchestra and yes, I do have their permission to use it in the footage. I don't deal a lot with the copyright issues, because we do have a media attorney who oversees most of our productions. I was under the assumption that if an orchestra is playing a piece of music that is the public domain, there shouldn't be any issues. (atleast that is what I was told)

PS: On a side note, does anyone have a book regarding IP copyrights? I would love to get my hand on that.

Aanarav Sareen

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Aanarav SareenRe: Graduation DVD
by on May 22, 2006 at 7:25:04 am

[Aanarav Sareen] "NOt sure if you are exactly referring to. T"

Sorry...should read "what you are referring to".

Also, as I mentioned earlier, I don't handle copyright issues. That is taken care by the media attorney... But, it would be interesting to see other view points. We are a real TV studio. 24x7 local broadcast and we do have some blanket coverage provided by the cable company. However, as I said, this is not my department for the most part I was just indicating our producedures. That's why we pay the guy $500/hr. :-)

Aanarav Sareen

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WhitewaterRe: Graduation DVD
by on May 23, 2006 at 2:15:49 am

[mark Suszko] "The law stinks, but it is the law; work to change it if you don't like it."

Ok, how do we change it? I think this is something that definitely needs fixed, but I'm an editor, not a lawyer/lawmaker. The process for acquiring the rights on these small scale projects is ridiculous, and in many times the cost of the rights would be more than the project itself could bring in.

There needs to a way to pay a fee, once a year, once a month, whatever that gives basic rights clearance, similar to what a bar owner would do, except this fee should cover everything, performance, sync, etc. I know that my company would gladly pay the fee. As for BMI & ASCAP, they shouldn't have a problem with this because they would be making some money from people who previously had been paying nothing. Then, when someone is caught in violation it's a bit more pay this fee once a year, or we'll sue you.

Like I said though, I have no clue how to get the ball rolling on this, but as a community, who needs to be able to both pay our bills and cover our
ass(ets), I think this really needs to be looked at a bit closer and actually doing something about it rather than being argued and re-argued over and over again via online forums.

Now then, I've had a long day, and actually want to stop thinking about "work" for the moment, but I urge everyone to get together and find a solution to this once and for all.


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Ron LindeboomRe: Graduation DVD
by on May 19, 2006 at 11:35:22 pm

For those logging into this thread from the link in today's newsletter, please also check out the thread below that I have linked as it also covers other points in the discussion of rights and responsibilities in scholastic event productions...

Best regards,

Ron Lindeboom

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Bob ColeRe: Graduation DVD
by on May 23, 2006 at 12:46:28 am

Just to remind everybody that this is not a private conversation. I believe that search engines survey these pages. Deliberate violation of copyrights, performance rights, etc., may get you in hotter water than inadvertent violations. (I think I learned on the COW that certain tv networks do not generally show halftime performances at basketball and football games, in large part because of licensing concerns. When music is played in an arena during a timeout, and can't be avoided in the background, I think there is some reasonable exception made. I recall something about six seconds of music "clean" being okay. But I'm way beyond my depth here and could be wrong. Basically, you can ALWAYS be sued -- it's just a matter of minimizing the plaintiff's likelihood of (1) noticing you and (2) having a good case.)

If it were my doing, and the graduation involved any large number of people, I'd be careful -- get releases, ascertain whether the music and arrangement are public domain, and edit the piece to minimize or eliminate any potential problem. At some point, if you have significant assets, and you decide that you need to do more research than the project is worth, I think you have to tell the client to go get another producer.

And as a proud Baltimorean who took several school field trips to brave little Fort McHenry, may I remind you that the Star Spangled Banner is a splendid song. If you think it's a little too martial, you should check out Maryland's state song, which basically refights the Civil War from the side of the Confederacy. And if you think it's unsingable... get a better artist.

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Mark SuszkoRe: Graduation DVD
by on May 23, 2006 at 2:55:33 am

I understand the Aussies have a somewhat more enlightened system for this, but I don't have all the details, perhaps some COW reader from Down Under will elaborate.

"Meanwhile, back at the hall of justice..." check out the free online version of this guide to copyright produced by some brilliant folks at Duke University. It doesn't give you all the answers, but frames the problems for small producers pretty well.

I feel discouraged that we can get this government to get enlightened about fair use, because large corporations (like the one that puts orphans in all their animations) pay big money to lobby politicians, and they keep extending Sonny Bono's copyright act on into perpetuity. The status quo makes the big media conglomerates rich and gives them power to harass any potential competition, they like the law just fine as it is: impenetrable and unworkable, creating a paralyzing effect on outsider productions. I'm all for protecting my intellectual property, but controversy over incidental background instances of music and imagery has gotten ridiculous. It needs to be reformed, the playing field leveled.

We little producers are not organized enough to counterweight all that lobbyist money, so the law will stay the way it is until enough of you all get mad, get together, and bring your representatives back to the table for a reasonable compromise.

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Rob DavenportRe: Graduation DVD
by on May 23, 2006 at 4:36:52 am

Have you seen THIS !

The DWF is proud to announce an agreement in principle that will, for the first time, allow wedding photographers and videographers to dub fully-licensed popular recorded music into their client slideshows, DVD's and video.

This agreement includes the opening of an online music store specifically for professional photographers and videographers to sample and download from a catalogue of 2 million major and independent label songs.

The tentative annual licensing fee will be $299 for 50 songs licensed for client slideshows, dvds, and videos. You will be licensed to burn as many as five copies of each downloaded song for your individual client. DWF members will be able to utilize this service at a discounted price of $249 year.

In addition, the agreement will allow professional photographers and videographers to download songs for website streaming. A catalogtue of 1.2 million independent label songs will be made available for pofessionals to use as theme music for their websites at a fee of $125 per fully-licensed song.

The DWF has always staunchly supported the protection of our photographers' copyrights on the images they shoot. We're proud that members of our industry will finally, via this exclusive arrangement, be able to respect copyrights of music recording artists, and legally provide our clients the music and service they want!

We anticipate the online music store will be open by the end of 2006!



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JeffDriscollRe: Graduation DVD
by on May 23, 2006 at 1:14:57 pm

Jumping back a little in the thread...

"I was under the assumption that if an orchestra is playing a piece of music that is the public domain, there shouldn't be any issues. "

In my limited knowledge of this stuff from a purely music perspective, if a band (speaking concert band, not rock) or an orchestra releases a CD they still have to get permission from the publisher of the music to use that. My understanding is that while the "melody" is public domain, it's the arragnement - the parts, the chords, the instrumentation, the varaitions - that the band is playing where the hang up comes. I'm contacting someone I know in the music publishing world to see if he can shed any light on this. About a year ago, a concert band he conducts sold a Christmas CD with songs that you'd assume are public domain, but he still had to go through steps to secure rights to sell those tracks.

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JeffDriscollRe: Graduation DVD
by on May 23, 2006 at 4:36:42 pm

I e-mailed Robert Sheldon at Alfred Music Publishing who I know from a local group that he directions:

"from what I understand...reproduction of any published arrangement of a piece would fall under copyright protection. If the piece is PD but the arrangement is not, then the publisher should be contacted to obtain permission. Sometimes the publisher will provide permission gratis, but usually they require at least a minimum fee. The method used is typically 8 cents per piece (unless it is a very lengthy composition) times the number of CDs or DVDs sold. There is sometimes a minimum fee, like $500 for example, so if the total of the 8 cents X number of copies amounts to only $60 or so, you still have to pay the $500, but this depends on the publisher."

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Ron LindeboomRe: Graduation DVD
by on May 23, 2006 at 4:56:24 pm

You friend's numbers pretty much coincide with my own experience in these kinds of situations, Jeff.

Thanks for taking the time to post your comments.


Ron Lindeboom

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Shayne WeykerRe: Graduation DVD
by on May 23, 2006 at 2:25:08 pm

The following document will at least tell you what a lot of pros (albeit documentary makers) who have spent a lot of time thinking about this have come up with.

Here's what it's about...

"Documentary filmmakers have created, through their professional associations, a clear, easy to understand statement of fair and reasonable approaches to fair use. Fair Use is the right, in some circumstances, to quote copyrighted material without asking permission or paying for it. It is a crucial feature of copyright law. In fact, it is what keeps copyright from being censorship. You can invoke fair use when the value to the public of what you are saying outweighs the cost to the private owner of the copyright.

Download this useful handbook, written by veteran filmmakers to help other filmmakers understand some instances where using copyrighted material without clearance is considered fair use."

I think a summary of the most interesting bits from that document ought to make it in the CoW magazine or newsletter.

--Shayne Weyker

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J. D. MackRe: Graduation DVD
by on May 23, 2006 at 8:27:51 pm

All across the U.S., there are *small* video production companies that are videotaping and duplicating graduations, school assemblies, weddings, bar and bat mitzvahs, etc. There is no way to pay every song publisher and record company a hefty minimum fee for each composition or recording that is overheard in the video and still keep fees reasonable. What the music publishers need to do is come up with a blanket license for small production companies (those that make less than $XXX per year) similar to what ASCAP and BMI provide for public music performance. I know that most small companies would be willing to pay this, but as it stands right now, the music publishers are not getting *anything,* and most of the small production companies feel like there's a sword hanging over their necks every time they are hired for a job.

J. D

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Chip JohnsRe: Graduation DVD
by on May 24, 2006 at 8:09:56 pm

Have you talked with the band director?

I remember back in highschool, I played timpani in the concert band. Our spring concert was recorded and a record was produced. The music that we used provided us the rights to do this.

Since the video is for members of the school's graduating class, the rights may already be included with the purchase of the sheet music.

Start by talking with the band director.

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nsharplesRe: Graduation DVD
by on May 26, 2006 at 4:18:09 am

Thanks for all of your input, we found that when they purchased the rights to perform the music/ the musical arrangement, it also included the video copyrights... thanks for all of your advice

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Steve LohRe: Graduation DVD
by on May 26, 2006 at 6:49:36 pm

Like someone else posted in this thread, PLEASE check out:

It's a collective of different groups who have FINALLY put into simple English the ambiguous, and often ignored, Fair Use part of copyright law. From my understanding (I'm not a lawyer), recording a live event where the Star Spangled Banner, or any other song for that matter, like a pop Madonna song, is covered under FAIR USE, which means you may not need to license the copyright. Read up on the the link above, it describes when something is under fair use and when not.

Now this doesn't mean someone can't sue you, but it does tell you what side of the law you're on. The purpose of the Center for Social Media and the other groups in that collective is to encourage documentarians to make more use of the Fair Use laws, since we have as a society become so chilled by the potential lawsuits that we're way too conservative in any kind of use. There's so much misunderstanding now too -- the website lists and dispels many of those myths, such as "6 seconds of a song is OK, but more is not." False. We as filmmakers have been taught that we must license EVERYTHING. Not true. When we shoot people on the street, and someone has a logo on a t-shirt, we think we have to blur it out. Not necessarily true. MTV taught us incorrectly by blurring everything -- but their choice of doing it had little to do with copyright law and more to do with them not getting product placement $$ from those companies.


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