When to get permission

If you distribute DVDs or a digital video (such as a YouTube video), make sure to get permission for any songs you did not write, recordings made by other people (such as samples, karaoke tracks, or background tracks), and reprinted lyrics or music notes (if any). Licenses should be secured before you distribute your video. Because of the complexity of these types of licenses, we suggest making your request many months ahead of your release, and also having a backup plan in case your request is denied. Reputable manufacturers require proof of licensing before they press your DVDs; reputable web sites will remove videos with unlicensed copyrighted material. You do not need to license songs that you wrote yourself or songs that you know are in the public domain.

The controversy over YouTube

By law, licensing must be in place for all of the above scenarios. Sadly, there is confusion in the music business about who handles licensing for YouTube streams, and the result is widespread copyright infringement on the service. Some consumers believe YouTube handles licensing for them; however, this is only partially true. YouTube pays royalties to some publishers that have agreed to a (very, very small, hotly despised) share of ad revenue in exchange for music rights. However, most publishers have not agreed to this, and instead follow the more traditional practice of requiring the individual to obtain synchronization licensing before posting. The best way to know for sure if a publisher has a deal with YouTube is to check with the copyright holder directly. We also can provide answers via our custom licensing services.

How the royalties are paid

You pre-pay royalties upfront based on a custom-negotiated fee. When you hire us, we deliver your request to the copyright holder, negotiate the fee, and present it to you. If you accept, we collect the entire fee from you (which includes the royalties), and then send 100% of the royalties on to the copyright holder. If you need to reorder, a new license is negotiated. You have the option to follow all these steps yourself or hire us for assistance through our custom licensing services.

How to get permission

The licenses required for video (synchronization, master, and print licenses) are custom-negotiated upfront with the copyright holder and are quite complex. For these types of licenses, check out our custom licensing services or contact us.

Challenges of licensing for video

All of the types of music licenses for video require custom negotiations with the copyright holder. Custom licensing can be challenging because, by law, the copyright holders maintain total control of their works. This means they can set any fee, take all the time they need, and reject the license outright. For this reason, it is important to temper expectations when licensing for video. Many factors affect the response, including budget, use, and even the current workload of the copyright holder’s processing department.

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