Astrid Bovell on June 22nd, 2012
Music and film go together like chocolate and nuts. Excellent on their own, but compliment each other so much when they’re together – heightening your experience and enjoyment of both. But unlike mixing chocolate and nuts, mixing music to film can be really complicated.
Music is really interesting from a copyright perspective because the ownership of the copyright and the managing of rights can be split so many ways. The composition can be owned by one person – or several people, the lyrics can be owned by another or several again. If the song gets released (that is published and recorded), then the publisher will manage the rights to the composition and lyrics and a recording company will manage the rights to the recording. Depending on what you do with music, a licensing body such as APRA|AMCOS may be able to provide you with a licence on behalf of the composer/songwriter/publisher and record company. But APRA|AMCOS can only administer some rights on their behalf.
If you’re wanting to put music to film (that’s called “synchronisation”) – there is usually no licensing body to provide you with a licence to do this; you need to seek permission from the copyright owners of the musical work. If it’s a published work, then it’s likely that you’ll need to contact the publisher and the record company separately to seek permission. If you’re planning to use a number of different musical works in your film, or you’re planning to use a musical work that’s a medley or mixture of other works, you can imagine how many people you could potentially need to contact!
The details of who owns the rights to musical works are well kept and carefully protected. This is really good because it means you’ll seldom find a musical work that is orphaned and it doesn’t take long to find out who you need to contact to get permission. However, the flip side is that often it can take weeks to receive a response from a rights holder because they receive a lot of requests, and because of how carefully they’re protected, the answer may not be the one you’re hoping for or may cost a fee that you’re not prepared to pay. The other factor is that both the music publisher and recording company don’t have to agree with each other in regards to their making a decision about whether they’re happy to grant you permission. The problem with this is that one could approve your request and the other could deny it. But in order for you to be able to use it, they both have to grant you permission.
Have I scared you off combining
chocolate and nuts I mean, music and film forever? Well, the good news is, it’s not all up to your lonesome to get this done – APRA|AMCOS can help you out by identifying the rights holders and providing you with their contact details BETTER STILL! If you’re sychronising music to film for University purposes it might already be covered by our music licence and if not, you can always get us to do the hard yards for you! Just give us plenty of lead time!
So what is one to do if the Copyright Office can’t do it for you? You could write your own music, you could get yourself a screen composer to write music specifically for your film, you could use production music – which is often licensed for film by various companies or since music and film are like chocolate and nuts… well, you may just find that the benefit outweighs the cost…