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Copyright Issue with Karaoke

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Matt Mercier
Copyright Issue with Karaoke
on Dec 20, 2008 at 2:41:38 pm

I'm producing a short doc about karaoke enthusiasts. This would be a for-profit venture and I'm wondering if I would run into any copyright issues with the music, having footage of people performing copyrighted songs.


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Todd Terry
Re: Copyright Issue with Karaoke
on Dec 20, 2008 at 3:02:25 pm

[Matt Mercier] "wondering if I would run into any copyright issues with the music,"

Defiitely.

Major can of worms there. The only real upside is that there won't be synchronization rights for the well-known versions of these songs, since these are not those exact recordings. The publishing rights, however, still exist for each and every song that is heard. And sync rights might come into play as well... except it would be for the karoke versions of the recordings, not the original versions.

This is a situation that could get very very hairy and complicated. Best to work with an entertainment attorney (not a regular lawyer) or someone who is really used to and familiar with handling music rights.

I won't say that it definitely will, but depending on your project's exact usage this would certainly have the potential of getting very very expensive quickly.




T2

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Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com






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Matt Mercier
Re: Copyright Issue with Karaoke
on Dec 20, 2008 at 3:40:46 pm

I'm not sure of the project's usage yet. Still in early pre-production.

So, I'd be looking at publishing and possibly sync rights to each of the karaoke versions of the songs? Hypothetically, what if I were to approach it from the angle of shooting it as a pilot for a series? I would still have the same issues, but if that idea didn't pan out, then I'd basically have a bunch of footage on some tapes in a box stored in a closet somewhere.

Thanks.


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Mark Suszko
Re: Copyright Issue with Karaoke
on Dec 20, 2008 at 7:32:05 pm

Your show is essentially "American Idol", as far as I can tell. Ever wonder why they sing so many older songs there? The rights are cheaper.


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Matt Mercier
Re: Copyright Issue with Karaoke
on Dec 20, 2008 at 7:53:36 pm

Completely different than American Idol. It's a documentary about normal people that are serious about karaoke, not a popularity contest where some semi-talented people get weeks or months of vocal and performance training and have teams of professionals working on hair, make-up, wardrobe, etc. My question wasn't 'What do you think about this idea?' It was if anybody had any insight into whether or not I might run into copyright issues with showing people performing copyrighted songs. I'm not necessarily seeking legal advice. Just some thoughts on what I might encounter so I can better prepare myself.


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Mark Suszko
Re: Copyright Issue with Karaoke
on Dec 20, 2008 at 8:01:08 pm

Sorry you misunderstood me: that was not a value judgement of your program, Functionally, from a legal rights and permissions perspective, the two shows are close to identical: Idol is a karaoke performance show at the core. Strip away the irrelevant contest stuff and the rights issues are very similar, is my point.


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Matt Mercier
Re: Copyright Issue with Karaoke
on Dec 20, 2008 at 8:30:49 pm

Okay, I see your point. You were just saying that I'd run into similar issues with rights and permissions. Thanks.

Any thoughts on my hypothetical scenario of shooting it and worrying about securing the rights to at least some of the music after it's in the can? If it ended up being too costly, I'd simply put all the tapes in a box and store it away somewhere.


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Christopher Wright
Re: Copyright Issue with Karaoke
on Dec 20, 2008 at 11:37:43 pm

I guess it all depends on how much time, effort and money you are willing to throw into a project that no one will ever see. On a positive note, I guess you could call it practice for creating a real documentary further down the line.

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Matt Mercier
Re: Copyright Issue with Karaoke
on Dec 20, 2008 at 11:54:39 pm

At this point, that's probably about all it's going to amount to, is practice for a feature doc that I'm in the process of outlining and doing research for. The chances of anyone ever seeing it are slim to none, but my main motivation is a real interest in the potential storylines of the participants, and that I think it would be fun to shoot and entertaining for anyone who did happen to see it. Thanks.


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Dan Brockett
Re: Copyright Issue with Karaoke
on Dec 22, 2008 at 5:55:41 pm

Matt:

Steve's advice above is correct. I deal with music clearance on a weekly basis, I produce docs for television and I produce a lot of DVD bonus material for all of the studios. Even when you would think that the studio owns the rights to all of their material, this is often not the case. Paramount sold all of the music rights to their classic films to Sony, so when I do a Paramount classic title like the four I did recently, Paramount had to license the music in their own films from Sony. Disney is the same way, they often have to pay themselves internally for music from their own films because at Disney, every department is a profit center. My point being, music clearances and rights are an expensive and difficult process, even for the supposed owners of the music itself to use in their own projects.

The scenario you describe is a clearance nightmare. I can almost guarantee that you will not have the budget to clear any of the music cues unless you have a budget that runs well into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. It sounds as if your project would also have the potential to run into the millions of dollars in license and clearance fees if it is long form and features many people singing many different songs.

Karaoke publishers pay for publishing and sometimes performance rights and since you are reproducing their work in a new original work, you would probably have to re-negotiate all of their rights with the original music publishing and possibly the sync rights in some cases, besides paying the Karaoke publishers themselves.

As a producer, you could not choose a project that has less of a chance of ever being usable in a commercial or exhibition application. Might be fun but you would be better served putting your time and effort toward producing something that you could actually show people, enter into festivals and possibly get distribution on.

Dan

Providing value added material to all of your favorite DVDs


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Rich Beil
Re: Copyright Issue with Karaoke
on Feb 14, 2009 at 11:13:00 am

Dan,

I read your reply while researching the issue of copyright and Karaoke, in regard to a relatively new website I found, http://www.redkaroke.com.

According to its Terms of Use, it appears to be incorporated in Spain.

Although it specifically prohibits the uploading and/or display of copyrighted material, it provides a database of thousands of Karaoke versions of copyrighted songs. Members are able to then record themselves performing these songs and post these renditions for comment. They have "chart" rankings similar to Billboard charts.

When I questioned the site Administrator about whether the appropriate licensing/performance fees had been paid for the use and display of copyrighted material, I got no answer. Therefore, I have not participated as yet.

I know that there is a similar site on MySpace called "ksolo".

I am wondering whether case law has addressed such and issue and whether these sites are subject to the licensing fees that Karaoke bars and clubs must pay.



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Dan Brockett
Re: Copyright Issue with Karaoke
on Feb 14, 2009 at 4:13:09 pm

Hi Rich:

I am not an attorney, so I don't know for sure, but it surely does sound as if they would need to pay the same sorts of license fees that any other user would.

As far as Spain, I don't know what the U.S. copyright laws are as far as how they apply to foreign countries. I know that there is an international copyright law, but as you know, much of the rest of the world ignores that because they are in countries that basically ignore copyright law (most of Asia, for instance).

Dan

Providing value added material to all of your favorite DVDs


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Steve Wargo
Re: Copyright Issue with Karaoke
on Dec 21, 2008 at 2:23:32 pm

Contact Barbara Zimmerman at http://www.bzrights.com

Steve Wargo
Tempe, Arizona
It's a dry heat!

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Matt Mercier
Re: Copyright Issue with Karaoke
on Dec 22, 2008 at 8:14:39 pm

Thanks for the info.


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