Thursday, January 26, 2012

Old Band Videos: No Releases

Dear Rich: We have extensive old video footage of bands (a lot of it is over 15 years old) that I have been dubbing and want to try and do something with online and try and make a little cash. The bands were aware we were filming and had the option to purchase the masters, but chose not to. Could these be considered our art as we shot them and physically possess them. Most of the bands are now defunct and it would probably be hard to track them down for a release form, as most of our dealings were verbal agreements. If we start to do new ones, I would get a release from the band, but even if they signed it, would we (video crew people) be able to upload and charge for others to view and or purchase them?  Just thinking about the legal hoops you will have to go through has made us turn up the caffeine drip. (We've set out the legal rules below.) May we suggest another  strategy? Forget everything we're about to say and just do what you want. Unless one of the former band members later became a lawyer (and it happens) or is willing to hire an attorney, chances are likely your posted videos will become just more flotsam on the sea of low level infringements that are either drowning or enhancing popular culture (the grand jury is still out on that one). In any case, based on the odds, you're likely to survive intact. If there is an objection you may have to take down the video (not unlikely), or you may even have to deal with a lawyer (possible, but unlikely). However, what is extremely unlikely is that DOJ helicopters will land on your front lawn, forcing you to retreat to your safe room with a shotgun. (And can anyone tell us what's to become of the copyright of the fabulous MegaUpload theme song?)
Right, you had a question. You probably own the copyright in the videos because you shot them. The band (or their publishing company) probably owns the copyright in the songs (unless they are cover songs). If you want to include copyrighted music in a video, you need what's called a sync license from whoever owns the song publishing. Getting releases would help as you plan to make money from the band's trademarks and the members' individual personas. (BTW, whoever owns or possesses the masters doesn't matter too much; what usually matters the most is who possesses the legal rights.) BTW2, we've answered similar questions before (just type "sync license" into the "Search Dear Rich" box on the right) ...  just sayin'.