How to obtain rights?

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  • I know there are no simple answers here. Personally I think there should be, but that is just me. My question or problem is this. I do a lot of video productions for family and friends as a hobby. I do not make money in anyway from my work. Most of my productions are slide shows of personal images (weddings, school plays, nature etc.) with music as the background. Since I am not a songwriter, composer or singer and don't have a band or orchestra at my disposal to make my own music, I use music that is produced by others and that is usually copyrighted. On many occasions I have tried to hunt down who to contact to acquire permission to use their music. In most cases, this is extremely difficult, if not impossible. On the times when I did find the right people, I have never received a response to my inquiries.

    So the case is this; I want to do the right thing and get permission before using copyrighted content. But the copyright systems is so disorganized and impossibly complicated, that a private individual such as myself that does this for a hobby and not for profit, is left with no recourses to stay within the "letter" of the law, although I do believe that I am staying within the "Spirit" of the law which is to keep one person from profiting from another persons work.

    So my first question is this; is there a simple way for a person like myself to acquire permission to use copyrighted content? I guess my first question should be if it is even possible?

    My second question is not about the letter of the law, but more about the human side of the issue. Let's say I made an advertisement for GM cars and that add resulted in the sell of many GM cars. Would GM tend to be offended by my advertisement if it were promotional towards their products, even if I did not secure from them the right to use their copyrighted content? The reason I ask this, is that several of the videos I have produced, have made their way to the internet and I have first hand evidence that they resulted in hundreds of people purchasing the music that I used in the videos. So I am just curious what the general mentality of a copyright holder would be if they ran across my video that contained their music. Would it be, "That little rat use my content without permission." or would be "What a classy video. I bet a lot of people will end up buying my content as a result of it."?

    I did in fact once get a hold of a head manager of a company that was the copyright holder of some content I wanted use. I talked with him on the phone and asked him if I could use his content. His response was this; "If you don't sell it, and you use it in an appropriate manner, then your helping us and not hurting us and I have no problem with you using this content." But this was the only time I ever was able to contact a copyright holder.

    So can anyone give some advice here? Thanks
  • There really isn't a simple way for someone to get permission to use copyright content, unfortunately. There are certainly avenues that you can pursue- we've got some links over here:
    but it's not always easy.

    As far as risk, it really entirely depends on the company, I believe. I'm not sure there is a "general mentality" we can point to.
  • Thanks for the answer. I figured that would be the answer but I was hoping someone else might have information that I did not. Here is another question. Is there, or has there been any attempts in the multimedia industry to streamline or standardize the process to secure copyright permission. It seems to me that in the world we live today where there are no boundaries to what we can do with multimedia, it would only be logical to standardize the process to acquire permission to use copyrighted content. It also seems to me that since there can be severe legal ramifications for using copyrighted content without permission, that copyright holders should bare a legal obligation to make the process clear and easy. Take private property for example. In most states property owners are required to post no trespassing signs around the parameter of their property if the wish to prosecute people who come on their property without permission. So the law sees the property owner baring a burden to make their intent clear. But multimedia is very different then personal land property, because where as personal land property is intended exclusively for private personal use, professional multimedia is created expressly for controlled public use. Since their intent is not to completely restrict use of their content, but to control the use of it, I believe the copyright holders bare a huge burden to make the path to secure copyright permissions clear and easy. If they fail to do this, I think they should not have the right to sue but only the right to require that a person stop using their content.

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