During the last few posts, we’ve been discussing music licensing within photographic and video work.

Part 1 covered the value of music within photographic and video work.

Part 2 talked about the growing accessibility of legal, low cost music licenses.

Part 3 explained how licensing works and what approach you should take to fit your brand.

Now that you have the tools, I’d like to conclude by explaining what can happen if you choose to ignore the information that’s been shared in this series.

As photographers and videographers, most of us are aware of copyright law and what infringement means. Still, the question that circles in our professional community is, “if I use unlicensed music, will I really get caught?”

Over the years, the RIAA has pursued people who have large amounts of illegal downloads on hard drives. Many of these people lost in court and then went bankrupt. Was it worth it?

Record labels, publishers, and the RIAA have only sued individuals who had inordinate amounts of illegally downloaded music, right?

Matt Thompson of Song Freedom pays close attention to what’s happening in the photography community. When I spoke with Matt about this ongoing issue, he stated, “There were a handful of lawsuits in the photo/video community last year. It’s unfortunate that some people had to become examples and be out tens of thousands of dollars or [even] hundreds of thousands.”

“Are these lawsuits really fair?” Don’t those penalties seem harsh considering the photography and videography works in question may not actually generate a significant revenues?

John Thompson of EMI CMG Publishing explains, “Rights holders have been aggressive. I don’t think it’s a bully thing. It’s precedence, because if it’s not going to cost someone, when you ask, ‘is the risk worth the reward,’ then you fall in the ‘yes’ column. You would end up thinking, ‘What are the odds of me getting caught? Am I just going to have to pay this license later? If so, I’ll just try it without it. If the law is enforced aggressively, then the tide could turn and people may start to think, the reward is not worth the risk, so I will just do it legitimately.”

There’s a lot of content on the internet. Seriously, what are the odds that my one little slideshow is going to be found?

Matt Thompson remarks, “One of the biggest dangers is thinking that your video will never be seen. While one of the lawsuits last year was on a higher profile video, there were others that probably only had a couple hundred views. If it’s on the internet, then anyone can find it. After all, isn’t that why we put things out there?”

John Thompson adds, “We already have robots that go out and find streaming songs and look at the fingerprint like Shazam does. They come back [to our office computers] and match if that person has purchased a license. [Now] we are creating automated systems that make it easier to penalize and shut down infringement. We’ve already done that with YouTube. We have a hard hotline right to YouTube where we can say, ‘Boom! here’s a link, this is our song, it is not licensed, pull it down and they will pull it down right away.’”

“It’s important to note some major developments,” continues Matt. “In late 2009 Capitol Records filed suit against Vimeo. In the cases of Napster and Limewire [the music industry] started to look at who else was benefiting from the illegal use of copyrighted content, and it’s very possible they will do the same in the case of Vimeo. It’s not too far-fetched to think that a label might take action against anyone who is directly benefitting from illegal use of their content.”

The wild west days of anything goes on the internet are over.

“Technology enabled the bad behavior before it enabled the enforcement” says John. “ It’s kind of the way it goes, when cars came out it took a few decades to come up with speed limits and more traffic laws. Technology is usually used by those who do not question whether they should or should not use it. They can use it, so they do, and it takes society awhile to catch up and set up boundaries. We were in this weird period where you could go out and find a movie that came out last week. You could download it, watch it, and burn it on a DVD to give to your Mom for Christmas. It was crazy! We are at the end of it now.”

At EMI, John is helping end these “crazy” days by “working on making cheap and legal better than free and illegal.” Matt Thompson and Song Freedom are working tirelessly to bring a variety of content – Indie, Instrumental, and Mainstream music – to photographers and filmmakers. He states, “Going after the big stuff is definitely a long and difficult road to travel so everyone’s input is always appreciated.”

What’s your input? What technology would encourage you to use music legally?

Written by Peter Carlson

Peter Carlson’s outgoing, laid back, quirky personality is the main reason both brides and photographers love   working with him. Through photography, he and his wife Whitney focus on the unique personalities of every couple as well as the joy and happy emotions that are felt on each wedding day. Photographers find their classes fun, inspirational, and easy to implement. Peter & Whitney run their own studio, Dove Wedding Photography, as well as The Collection and The Nashville Photography Class.

Leave a Comment

You can use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>