Friday, September 21, 2007

Wedding Videography and Copyright Law

A month ago or so, I set out to get some definitive answers about copyright law as it would apply to wedding videographers; people who record weddings and provide an edited DVD product to the bride and groom. I have friends and acquaintances in this business, and have found wildly divergent perspectives on copyright, and what defines legal usage of copyrighted material within the confines of wedding video productions.

Using an informal polling method of calling my friends and asking them questions, I heard a few common themes, but everyone differed on the details. On a couple of occasions, I've contacted the (very, very helpful) Beverly Hills Bar Association, publishers of The Musicians Business and Legal Guide and run the various theories past them. I've tried to distill the questions to rather broad categories. As with most things legal, the devil's in the details. IANAL, and this post is not meant to constitute legal advice. If you've still got questions, call the Beverly Hills Bar yourself (they have 1/2 hr free consults) to discuss your particular details.

Q: As a wedding video producer, do I have any exposure to potential copyright claims?

A: It depends on your business model.

Generally speaking, weddings are private events; they are not open to the public. Because they're private, infringement claims are generally dismissed. When a person purchases a compact disc recording, they're (usually) granted a license that reads: "Licensed for private, non commercial use." or a similar language. That's the license that allows someone to use a Tim McGraw song during their wedding.

If your business model involves simply recording the event, editing, and delivering a shiny disc product to the bride and groom, a videographer is covered the bride and groom's license. That is to say, you are specifically licensed to use that material in any your clients see fit, providing it remains private and non-commercial.

Q: I was paid to produce the video - doesn't that make it "commercial?"

A: No. Your recording and subsequent editing of the private event does not constitute a "derivative work", nor is your being paid in any way related to the copyrighted material. That you have been hired by the licensee simply means you're "for hire" and generally indemnified against a copyright claim. This legal structure varies between states, so make sure to TALK TO YOUR ATTORNEY TO MAKE SURE THIS APPLIES TO YOUR BUSINESS.

Q: Doesn't "Fair Use" cover me in these situations?

A: No - "Fair Use" does not apply. Fair Use is a special class of exemptions from infringement claims. As you're already licensed to use the music via the purchase of the CD or "for hire" status, "Fair Use" is not required.

Q: Under what circumstances would I have to obtain licensing?

A: Imagine you're product includes a short piece highlighting the bride and groom's first meeting - a kind of retrospective. You decide to include television clips ("When Dick and Jane first met 6 years ago, THIS is what was on TV...") or other copyrighted material IN ADDITION to what was recorded during the private ceremony, they you'll certainly need a license, as you're essentially reselling those clips.

Another scenario would be if you intended the wedding video to be released publicly - resold in stores (who'd buy it!?!?) or broadcast on a public network. In those cases, a videographer would absolutely have to obtain coverage (most likely via an agency like Harry Fox).

One probable scenario is having a portion of your wedding video featured on television, ala America's Funniest Home Videos (or Bridezilla and it's ilk). In a case like that, the broadcast company (ABC) would usually go about obtaining the license (if they don't already have blanket coverage). Even in that scenario, however, the burden of license does not fall on the videographer.

I hope you've found this post helpful and informative. Questions/corrections can be submitted in the comments.

Photo by Daquella Manera.

Magnatune is a great source of music

Just a quick laudatory post for, who's Ambient/Electronica channel has kept my studio shrouded in chill while I've been working on a couple of side projects.

Magnatune is great because you can listen FREE, and if something really catches your ear, you can purchase the tracks or album in a couple clicks.

Very much a top notch service - I'm happy to recommend it to anyone looking for new music of very high caliber.

Try their Pop channel, too.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Embedding a Flash-based media player

I've been searching for some kind of easy-to-implement Content Management System for my music catalog. Being a bit of a geek, I've tried to put a few things together in the past: a simple SQL database (more complex than it first seems), a PHP-based catalog system (freeware is never very flexible), and none of them really worked very well.

My latest idea is to simply use an embedded Flash player with a list of URL's to play. Scouring Google, I found Jeroen Wijering's player available under a Creative Commons license. It was a cinch to download, and install on my server (simply copy the files over with WinSCP). Jeroen has a handy config utility that allowed me to customize a few options in the player, and simply paste his code into mine.

There was only one "trick" to getting it all together: generating the XML file that his player uses to create a playlist. I tried a few products, but ended up using a trial version of Tristana Writer. Tristana's product was interesting because it would scan an existing web page, and create an XML file based on it's structure. I had some minimal editing to do after it's scan, but within ten minutes, had uploaded an XML file of my music catalog, and the player was working.

Photo by Flickr's blinked.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Yamaha Tenori-on

An amazingly fun looking interface called the Tenori-on has been made commercially available by instrument manufacturer Yamaha. I'd hoped to see something like Reactable or the Audiopad commercially available by now for this kind of loop-based composition, or at least that could musically interpolate your programming to fit musical structures (Hello, Yamaha "styles?") *that *would be something.

Via Metafilter.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Popular Pop

Overheard on a conference call:

Client: ...and musically, we want something that really.....y'know.....pops.

Creative Director: Pops? As in pop music?

Client: Yeah.

Creative Director: What kind of pop?

Client: ....................................(sound of breathing)......

Creative Director: As in, what genre of pop music?

Client: .......................(sound of squeaky chair).......

Creative Director: Umm, do you know what I'm getting at?

Client: No.....well, we're just looking for popular music......y'know, what people are listening to....

Creative Director: Well, people listen to lots of music - there's no one style that's the most popular......

Client: ....... well, I'll leave that up to you. Whatever people are listening to.....whatever style they're into....or however you want to phrase it......or look at it....I mean.....if lots of people are listening to it, it's popular, right? I mean that's the definition. I don't know why I'm explaining this...anyway, we just want something that's a popular style....and....really.....POPS...y' people can identify with it.....kind of I guess what I'd call...ummm...."popular pop."


You can't make this stuff up, people.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Video: footage from Minnesota's floods

Some really amazing footage from Minnesota's recent storms. Lots of gorgeous lightening and thunder. It's also fun to play along with and practice those B-roll scoring skills... ;)