Sunday, April 16, 2017
Music Business/Law Tips - "YouTube cover song issues"
These days with the prevalence and ease of using video sites such as YouTube, Facebook, etc., many new artists make "cover" videos of popular songs to gain an audience, and numerous fans create "user generated" videos of famous songs for fun. However, without the proper permission this can be considered copyright infringement, which could lead to some punitive actions. The reason for this is that when one uses someone else's song in a video, that is technically what is called a "synchronization" use (i.e., "sync"), and that legally requires a license from the publisher/writer of the song (as opposed to a straight audio cover version where it's much easier to get a mechanical license from the Harry Fox Agency). Of course, most new artists and fans are not aware of this and often get hit with either a takedown or cease and desist notice. Getting a few of these can actually bar the future use of YouTube for a period of time (YouTube jail). However, sometimes the cover flies under the radar and/or no one makes an issue of it, and more commonly these days the publisher/writer makes a claim to the song rights via YouTube's "Content Management System" which allows the owner of the song to share in the advertising revenues generated by the cover video (but the artist or fan doing the cover will not be able to participate in that ad rev). A solution to avoid problems is to go to a site such as WeAreTheHits.com which has worked out pre-clearances to allow someone to make a cover video and not violate any rights (or to go direct to the owner of the song but they are often too busy to reply). Since there is value to having cover videos up for discovery purposes which can help build a career or earn income in other areas, it would be best to try and get advance clearance before posting a cover video online. Ben McLane Esq benmclane.com