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Sound Effects and Copyrights

Discussion in 'Sound, Music, and Intercom' started by Eboy87, Oct 7, 2008.

  1. Eboy87

    Eboy87 Well-Known Member

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    A topic that involves almost all of us. I'm sound designing a show right now where just about every scene is in a new location. The director says there's going to be minimal, if any scenery, so it's up to the LD and me to create these locations. I plan on going out and recording some of the sound effects I need myself, but I know I won't be able to record all of them.

    Say I go to a site like Sounddogs.com, or get sounds from the library here at school (or the Chicago public library), how do the copyright laws apply to them if I wanted to use them for this show? For sounddogs, is it I pay for the file, then it's mine to use as I see fit, or are there strings attached?

    Or am I over-thinking this for a college production?
     
  2. elite1trek

    elite1trek Active Member

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    Probably. Its also probably illegal to rip sfx from your library too, but it happens. As for the "pay-for" sites, you would have to read the terms of use that they provide.

    There are a lot of free sound fx sites out there, but the quality is questionable. If you do a couple good Google searches, you can probably find what you need.
     
  3. lieperjp

    lieperjp Well-Known Member

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    Probably. The likelihood of getting caught are slim, but does that make it ok? That's a question of Ethics.

    Also, the thing about it being a college production is that technically ok for an education you are able to use it, but if you charge for the production, then you are making a profit, so then you have to have permission. Lawyers have to make it so complicated...
     
  4. Eboy87

    Eboy87 Well-Known Member

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    That's the thing I'm in the dark about. I do believe tickets are being sold, but I'm getting the feeling this is more like someone's pet project. I know for a fact I'm not getting paid for it (volunteering, it's all I could get, but it gives experience), so I don't quite know whether we're taking in a profit or if it's just going to cover the expenses of the show.

    While it does seem a bit complicated, I'd like to understand all this for when I'm actually designing a show that isn't put on by a school. I found the end user license for the sounddogs website: End User License. It looks like I have permission to use their sound effects for a show, but I can't redistribute them.

    I agree Lieperjp, the lawyers do make it too complicated.
     
  5. lieperjp

    lieperjp Well-Known Member

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    I'd have to say that looking at the About Us section, the F.A.Q. Section, and the EULA that once you purchase the sounds you are free to use them in any live production that is not being recorded and distributed.
     
  6. Sayen

    Sayen Active Member

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    What this industry seems to lack is an easy way for schools and small theaters to obtain rights for playback of music and sound effects. I've looked at BMI and ASCAP, and neither even acknowledges the theatrical industry. I pay rights on everything else used in productions, happily, and would pay for music rights if I could find a simple and economical way - similar to CCLI for worship music. As it is, I mostly rely on royalty free music, and a few local bands who let us play their stuff.

    Anyone want to start a company?
     
  7. philhaney

    philhaney CBMod CB Mods

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  8. museav

    museav CBMod CB Mods Departed Member

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    There can sometimes be little 'gotchas' in the language, such as sometimes being limited to having one copy of the file, so you may not be able to have the file on the computer you used to edit or to prepare a cue list and at the same time have it on a different computer for performance.

    Also, it sounds like what they are providing is synchronization rights, which are usually related to backing music tracks for television, video, film, etc. where the audio is synchronized to a visual image in producing a multimedia result. These are not the same as performance or grand rights Grand rights are often required in "dramatic" applications, the definition of which seems to vary but relates greatly to it being key to the drama, which it seems might be relevant if they are relying on the sound to help set the scene.

    The 'educational use' logic is being more closely watched, you may get away with that for a class and maybe even rehearsals but probably not with an audience, even if you don't charge it is likely going to be considered a public performance rather than an educational use.

    However, I believe that sound effects may be easier to address than music. There are many 'royalty free' effects out on the Web as well as commercial effects libraries that would include the necessary rights (provided you purchase the library). I remember when I was in college relying heavily on a large BBC sound effects compilation (at that time on vinyl) that the university had purchased, if it wasn't in that you made your own.
     
  9. derekleffew

    derekleffew Resident Curmudgeon Senior Team Premium Member

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    It was easier in the olden times. Once you bought the record, you could dub it to your show tape on the Ampex AG440 1/4 track machine with no issues. During the show, be sure to cue the leader splice just before the playback head!

    [​IMG]
    Ampex AG-440 Cosmetic Evolution.
     
  10. bdkdesigns

    bdkdesigns Active Member Fight Leukemia

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    At our university, we are covered by the blanket rights purchased by the NPR station based out of our building with BMI and ASCAP (our department is listed in both contracts). We are fine with those companies but beyond that, I was always under the impression that it fell under the fair use laws for education.
     
  11. museav

    museav CBMod CB Mods Departed Member

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    I would check on that, many schools make the mistake of thinking their blanket rights cover them but many of those do not cover grand rights related to dramatic performances. And my understanding is that it is not the environment but the use that defines educational use. I went through something similar with the legal department within a large university and they indicated that the "educational use" idea was very misapplied. You might have a very difficult time arguing that music or and intellectual property used in a performance open to the public is an educational use simply because it is being presented to people who are not even registered students.

    To be clear, this is simply anecdotal information based on past experience, I am not an property rights attorney and that is who should be guiding you.
     
  12. philhaney

    philhaney CBMod CB Mods

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    I checked with the person who is in charge of securing the rights to the music we use at the Pageant of the Masters, and here is her advice:

    Start with ascap and search the database. Enter song title, composer or anything else you know and some info should pop up. Make sure it's not public domain because then it's free to use. Sometimes you can go to major publishers (Warner/Chappell, EMI, MPL, etc.) and search on their sites to see if they're the publisher. Each publisher has itis own way of doing things but one thing to know is that there is no set rate for securing rights. Basically, you bid. If you've never gotten rights before, you can't use a previous rate as a first offer so you'll probably have to submit all the pertinent show info (type of use, length, live show, vocals, orchestra, movement, venue, ticket price, show dates, etc.). Warner/Chappell has a pretty good form to fill out and send in.

    This info is for live performances (grand rights) only. Any rights for CDs, recordings, TV, movies are done through another agency such as Harry Fox. Remember, the price isn't set in stone. We've paid everything from $250.00 to $5,000 for a song. I once got a price down from $10,000 to $250.00 based on the argument of prior rates, non-profit venue, etc.

    Hope this helps...


    Bear in mind, we're securing the rights for our orchestra to perform the music, not to play the music off of a CD, etc. So you may want to go here.
     
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2008
  13. cdub260

    cdub260 CBMod CB Mods

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    Often, though not always, if you're doing a short run in a small venue, the rights holder will grant you the rights for free. This is not so much generosity on their part is it is that your show is too small, and the fee for using their recording is too small for them to even care. Sometimes it simply costs them less to just give you the rights than it would if they were to actually consider your request.
     
  14. CountFeedback

    CountFeedback Member

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    While I've never run into a copyright issue, I've always included in every design contract something along the lines of "All audio samples and music in the design should be considered as suggestions. Acquiring the performance rights to these pieces is solely the responsibility of the producing entity." It's a bit "passing the buck," but better to be protected then to get hung out to dry by a producer if anyone comes looking for royalties.
     
  15. Grog12

    Grog12 CBMod CB Mods Premium Member

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    First off and foremost: Fair Use does not, I repeat, does not cover any show for an educational instituition that charges a fee for tickets.

    Those with a blanket radio station liscence: If memory serves you are able to use music during pre-show, intermission, and post show and will still be covered by that liscence but I could be wrong.

    Follow this link of http://www.richmondsounddesign.com/docs/sound-copyrights.doc for a detailed article.
     
    Sayen and (deleted member) like this.
  16. Sayen

    Sayen Active Member

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    Educational use is pretty narrow - going off memory alone, the use has to accommodate a curriculum, the educator has to be present, and there are limits to the length of material depending on the medium (books, poetry, music, movies, etc.). Educational use definitely does not cover theater, dance, or concert group performances.

    Great article Grog, thank you. The last bit about finding original music is the key I think. There are enough quality high school/college bands who will play for cheap that you can cover pre/intermission/post show music, although underscoring is another problem.

    Some of the comments in the survey are interesting. Classical music is not free if playing pre-recorded. While the original composer is dead, arrangers and the symphony playing the music usually have rights. School orchestras, for example, pay a licensing fee for performances. Oh, and I want a $72,000 budget for my next play.
     
  17. Eboy87

    Eboy87 Well-Known Member

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    There is definitely some good reading in this thread (I'm still reading the article posted by Grog). I have a production meeting this Friday with the director and the rest of the designers, so I'll present some of this information to them.

    I wound up finding the BBC Sound Effect library in our school's library, so I'll find out about getting the rights to use some of their sounds. I do still have to go out and record some of my own, but I need to purchase a pre-amp first (or haul my ONYX up here).
     
  18. bobbyt2012

    bobbyt2012 Member

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    Well put. That was my understanding as well. I have to admit to using some copyrighted sound effects for a school production that charged admission, but the chances of someone noticing or caring are very low. Maybe if the composer was in the audience, he would get angry. That's pretty unlikely though.
     
  19. Grog12

    Grog12 CBMod CB Mods Premium Member

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    The composer, the producer, the record company.....Look we've all done it. That doesn't make it right and or legal. Most of us reading this thread will do it again. Still doesn't make it right and or legal. Ignorance of the law does not excuse you from it. (God how I wish it did....there would be so many more dead hookers in my backyard..er nevermind).

    But what you can do is start being mindful of it.
     
  20. museav

    museav CBMod CB Mods Departed Member

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    Just remember that if you ever create any original material, especially if that is how you make a living.

    I'm not trying to pick on this one instance as it is a very minor transgression and I had much the same outlook until I started having original works I wanted to protect. But as a general point I do find it ironic when intellectual property rights come up as a problem in arts related forums. A person who creates an original work has potentially created something with just as much value, and sometimes just as much investment, as if they created a physical thing, so why do people who would never steal the mp3 player or computer often think nothing about stealing the music they put on it?

    If those in the arts don't recognize and support intellectual property rights, then it's no wonder the general public doesn't. Think about it, by assigning no value to other's works, you are essentially implying that anything original you create also has no value. Yes, it is a hassle and the attorneys have made it more difficult than it should be, but that does not change the underlying principle.
     

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