Friday, March 11, 2011

Needs Music Rights for Dance Instructional DVD

Dear Rich: My wife and I want to produce an instructional dance DVD. Obviously, to instruct people in how to dance, we would need to include some music on the DVD. But I am a little confused on exactly which permissions/licenses we would need to obtain. I have a general understanding of the copyright requirements for producing a music CD, and I also know that the requirements for including music in a motion picture are quite different, but where exactly would an instructional DVD fall between those two very different mediums? Given the answer to that first question, I have a further complication based on the types of musical works I would be including. I envision using three types of musical work in the final product. First is standard pre-recorded original works - anything from Glen Miller to Lady Gaga. Second, I would include pre-recorded instrumental pieces contained on MIDI and karaoke files found on the internet. And third would be my own arrangements of existing works. So, for example, I might use an actual recording of the Glenn Miller band playing "In The Mood", or an instrumental midi file of "In The Mood", or my own arrangement of "In The Mood." As you can tell, I'm already into some fancy foot work. Can you help me get my steps straight? As discouraging as this may sound, our advice would be to either give up on your DVD project or to risk going it without authorization. That's because all three of your potential DVD uses - unlike a standard audio CD -- require a special license to link the music with video known as a "sync license." These licenses are required from the publishers/songwriters of the music. (A separate permission will be needed from the record company that owns the rights to the pre-recorded music tracks.) The Dear Rich Staff has discussed sync licenses in the past and our main takeaway point is that in order to get one, you need to contact each music publisher individually and ask for it --  a task that we imagine will quickly bust your budget, assuming the music publishers even take your calls. That's been the case since 2002 when the Harry Fox Agency discontinued granting sync licenses on behalf of the publishers they represent. As for using songs without permission, the odds of being hassled will decrease if you don't use pre-recorded music as those tracks are easy to identify with music ID software.