January 09, 2010

Rights Rights

I have a little sideline in video making; some of these videos would benefit from music soundtracks derived from (or using as-is) classical or rap or whatever recordings. Unfortunately, while I'd be happy paying a reasonable price to use these tracks on public versions of the videos, there's just no easy way to get those rights, and no fair pricing setup. Around here you typically have to get at least two types of rights per song (sync rights and a master use license); but there's no single central place to find out who the original rights holders are (there may be many, and you may never be able to discover with any certainty whether the rights are unencumbered by other hidden rights holders through derivative licensing), and even if you find them, it may take months or even years of wrangling to get an agreement, which will inevitably cost an arm and a leg (think thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars with a reduction if you're just doing a film festival or you're a student or whatever). The system's set up for large-scale studio films and lawyers; it's hopeless for people like me who're only too happy to pay but have no mechanism for doing so that doesn't include paying more than every other production expense combined for a single soundtrack right, for a short video that's intended for only very limited public showing, or that's not a commercial work.

I dream of the day when there's a central authoritative and efficient rights clearing house for things like this, with a simple payment system based on micro payments per (YouTube, Vimeo, whatever) play, up to a capped amount (think something like a penny per play up to (say) $500 for non-mainstream use). Fat chance, of course, but I can dream.

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