Copyright and Karaoke

After all my ranting about Fair Use and the Public Domain, I flubbed and posted a video on youtube that I really shouldn't have posted. Not only did I break my own rule about copyright (when in doubt, don't do it), I also neglected some privacy issues. The video included a large group of people at a private party dancing like crazy while a couple of people performed a Karaoke song. I technically should have had every subject's permission to broadcast the video, and I suspected it was a copyright violation.

I know it's not okay to broadcast music without paying royalties or obtaining permission from the copyright holder. I know this not only from my experience as a writer and studying copyright law as a journalism student, but also from my career in the telecom industry.

You know when you call some companies and hear the radio when they put you on hold? That's a big no-no. The radio stations pay royalties to broadcast popular songs, but the companies have not paid the royalties to re-broadcast.

It's typically very easy to connect a music source to your telephone system. I learned a long time ago to explain the copyright implications and encourage system administrators to purchase "On Hold" music which includes royalty fees.

Karaoke works in a similar manner, I thought. When karaoke jockeys purchase the music that works with their systems, I assumed the royalty fees were built in. But that's as much as I knew, and after my guilty conscience kicked in about posting that video on youtube, I decided to do some research.

First, the confirmation...In "Karaoke Brings Customers and Copyright Concerns to Business Owners Seeking to Boost Profits", Tom Annastas, BMI Vice President, General Licensing explains, "Virtually all popular songs are copyrighted and can't be legally played in public without permission of the songwriter."

But the surprise? It's actually the venue hosting karaoke that is responsible for paying royalties - not the K.J. "Establishments that use music, like restaurants and bars pay a flat rate that is distributed based on trends in local radio stations (based on the type of music). There is no similar license for karaoke operators," explains T. Earl LeVere in "As if karaoke weren’t bad enough NOW IT’S COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT."

How does this translate to publishing videos of folks singing karaoke on the internet? In the FAQ section of the Karoke Anti -Privacy Agency's website, I discovered it's not a simple answer.

The question: "I host shows and contests and want to broadcast recordings from these on my web site? Can I do this?"

The answer: "This is a very complicated process. First of all, you cannot do any of this without proper licensing. You can contact the Karaoke music manufacturer for permission to display their music. You must also acquire other licensing before you proceed. For example, you must contact your web site carrier to get broadcast licensing rights. Additional licensing may be required in different countries."

Now I wasn't putting the video on youtube to promote a karaoke business (in fact, the k.j. joked that I might be hurting his reputation more than helping!), but the laws are bound to apply just the same.

Accoring to the U.S. Copyright Office (See Chapter 11), an unauthorized act includes anyone who, without the consent of the performer or performers involved "transmits or otherwise communicates to the public the sounds or sounds and images of a live musical performance." There's no doubt that's what I did when I posted this particular video.

What I found most interesting in the research for this hub was information relevant to song lyrics. It turns out that copyright law as it applies to karaoke is very complicated and still evolving in case law. While the venue is actually responsible for buying the rights to play copyrighted music, the court concluded in Leadsinger, Inc. v. BMG Music Publishing, 512 F3d 522 (9th Cir. 2008), that in addition to the "mechanical fee" required to secure a "compulsory license", karaoke companies must also pay a "lyric reprint" fee and a "synchronization fee."

It's almost more than my poor brain can handle, but basically, just because you purchase the right to reproduce, perform, or broadcast the song, does not mean you have the right to put the lyrics on the screen.

But that's fodder for another hub...back to the point, I don't have the right (and neither do you) to post youtube videos of friends singing karaoke. I'm happy to say it didn't take me long to come to my senses. The video was removed voluntarily after just three days...I didn't mention the song title, so maybe I Will Survive any potential lawsuits.

Twelve of Thirty

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Hmrjmr1 profile image

Hmrjmr1 7 years ago from Georgia, USA

Very interesting post for those of us KJ'ing and looking to "enhance" our sites w video, Really pops up the caution sign while it all gets sorted out.. Thanks

dineane profile image

dineane 7 years ago from North Carolina Author

Thanks for commenting - it is interesting, isn't it? I believe in protecting copyrights, but I'm a huge karaoke fan, too :-) I wish it wasn't do complicated!

Captain 7 years ago

What if I own the CDG and I make an audio recording of myself singing with the background music? Can I post an audio clip on my website (where I'm selling an ebook)? The clip would go in the "About the author" section...

dineane profile image

dineane 7 years ago from North Carolina Author

well, Captain, my interpretation is probably not. Just like the example in the hub of the KJ who wanted to use recordings on his website, you should probably start with the CDG publisher's permission, at minimum.

6 years ago

This is BS,

I am sorry, when you create a song, you cannot get paid for it everywhere its played. Its BS, how many times does someone have to BUY a song before its paid for. If everyone in your establishments owns the CD that is being played, is that not a handful of licenses to listen? Exactly, its a huge grey area, and BMI the Ascap, etc, do everything they can to double, triple and quadruple charge people. If you want people to BUY your music, at some point you have to let them listen to it.

DJ Mouse 6 years ago

I feel the music was purchased the fee's were already put into the final price. What's next fee's to lend a book out to a friend. What people will do to make a dollar.

6 years ago

I am totally in-line with 'M'. How the hell does anyone get to buy a song unless they hear it? According to what's here, the *only* 'legal' way to listen to any song is to buy it. If I drive the streets with my windows down playing a Rolling Stones record and someone hears it, then according to the very heart of this Post I am breaking the Law of "Distribution without a license."

Don't you have better things to spend your time doing? How about listening to some of those guys singing Karaoke on Youtube; strike that, surely you wouldn't break the law yourself. OH ... strike that too: " The video was removed voluntarily after just three days...I didn't mention the song title, so maybe I Will Survive any potential lawsuits." It appears you have brains that can't quite get around what you are typing here; as you also don't have either courage nor balls.


totallytotallyamazing 5 years ago

dineane, thank you for your informative post! After purchasing a karaoke tune and I recorded myself singing to it. I am going to make a homemade rock video (o-boy!) to go along with it soon and would love to eventually post it to youtube or another similar site. I am not selling anything, just hoping to share it with people and maybe get some positive feedback or not, who knows? Can I do this without permission from the artist? I have recently viewed quite a few other similar youtube postings.

dineane profile image

dineane 5 years ago from North Carolina Author

It is really not legal to use someone else's song this way - and it would not necessarily be the artist's permission you need, but the copyright holder. I am sure you have seen tons of similar posts on youtube, but it is still technically not ok.

John 5 years ago

When you purchase the Karake CD you are purchasing the right to listen to and utilize the contents as intended, in this case to perform and sing that song.

I believe that this would protect you against any lawsuit as is evidenced by the lack of action on the part of the copyright holders against any individuals for singing a song and posting it on youtube for friends to see. As long as they are not selling videos of themselves performing the song no additional royalty payment should be required.

An appropriate analogy would be if I purchsed a baseball bat with a brand name prominatly displayed on the bat and video taped myself using it to hit a ball and then posted it on youtube. The Bat company could not ask for compensation because the logo was seen in my video. The logo is a part of the bat and the right to diplay the logo was also part of the transaction.That is in part the principle of anticipated use.

dineane profile image

dineane 5 years ago from North Carolina Author

Related article in the news today -

"If a restaurant or bar has a live band, the restaurant can be fined if the musician plays unlicensed material."

That guy 5 years ago

According to this article:

Google/Youtube has a blanket agreement in place with most of the major publishers where they receive a portion of the ad profits. So while posting derivative works is illegal in general, it is normally Okay at youtube specifically. So no, you can't post it on your own website, but you can make a youtube account and post it there.

kevin mills(SuttleCrutch) 4 years ago

that's why i'm here,some say ity's wrong to be up on stage every friday night singing their god damn songs,ain't about the money,ain't about free beer,it seems to me when your head gets big,your heart just doesn't care,that's why i'm here.

Alysia Allen 4 years ago

In order to do karaoke a bar/restaurant must have a right to perform license issued in the United States for the USA by ASCAP, BMI,SESAC. This is a world wide procedure. My thought is if the venue doesn't want to pay they need to get out of karaoke and cut down on the competition between the venues, karaoke is too watered down and the more people at a show the more fun it is and the owners make far better money.

Alysia Allen 4 years ago

Hey, you guys need to be careful with the advertising. That supercore you have for sale is not licensed, as a matter of fact the producer of the series has been in jail several times over the Supercore. There are very few licensed discs in the United States and many kjs own discs that were never licensed like backstage, legends, Hot Hits, etc. PROCEED WITH CAUTION.

swilkerson4 4 years ago

So what is the benefit of purchasing a karaoke cd, so you can sit and look at the disc outside of paying all this licensing fee crap? It's just another form of USA Communism.

willn 4 years ago

I came across this because of youtube posting ads in one of my daughters talent show. The publisher that was linked to the ads had nothing to do with my daughters performance. So I decided to do some research. I know this is a couple of years old but I was surprised what I saw here. To quote the OP

"Accoring to the U.S. Copyright Office (See Chapter 11), an unauthorized act includes anyone who, without the consent of the performer or performers involved "transmits or otherwise communicates to the public the sounds or sounds and images of a live musical performance.""

This does not apply. This is specifically talking about a concert or band being recorded by a camera, phone, or some other device. This has no bearing on karaoke. Then we have "fair use" which dilutes things even further. I am still looking for a solid answer to my daughters talent show issue. I won the debate and her video is still up. But I do not know exactly why. As far as the Karaoke goes. There might be something to this, but chaapter 11 is not it.

Thomas 4 years ago

I am a student and have recently I've been reviewing the Warner/Chappell Music, Inc. et al. v. Stellar Records, Inc. et al., 2012 CV 00512 (M. D. Tenn) case and have found that manyl of the songs that the music publisher is disputing are already under a fully registered and received copyright by one of the karaoke manufacturers.

For example:

In the case, one of the songs Warner is disputing is a song entitled "Someone Like You" by the original artist Adele. This song is on Stellar Records "May 2011 Pop Hits Monthly -Pop" CDG (this CDG also contains 8 other songs by different artists/publishers)

Stellar Records appears to have a valid copyright (SR 690-806) for this specific CDG.

I have 3 question:

1. If the music publisher (Warner in this case) did not provide permission/license to Stellar is the copyright invalid???

2. Assuming Warner's allegations are true, why would Stellar copyright a song (or group of songs) for which they did not have permission/license???

3. To be able to sue effectively for copyright infringement, would Stellar need to obtain the following licenses???

· Mechanical license (covering the sound recording only), also known as a "Harry Fox License" after the company that administers virtually all of them, and set at a rate fixed by the Copyright Royalty Board, a unit of the Copyright Office,

· Lyric Reprint license (covering the right to display the lyrics onscreen, or to reprint them in a lyric sheet),

· Synchronization license (covering the right to synchronize the display of the lyrics to the music).

john 4 years ago

My whole feeling about all this is anyone that makes any song and sells it has made what they want of the song if a song was a dollar and everyone bought the song lets say 240 million people did ,should ANYONE really worry about using it because whom ever use's the song helps the artist promote his song or hers or group they shouldn't be unhappy they made more than enough beside the industry has I mean the music and movie stops creative its getting harder and harder for anyone to even get a break in the business unless your already established in the business hell you can't even find the artist to get premission or a way to contact them , lets face it none of these people and artist would be where they are today if we didn't buy their music or see their movies it would be a sad day if everyone in the world stopping buying or seeing them .

stickman 3 years ago

just had an email from soundcloud telling me it was blocking my karaoke performances due to copyright issues!

Who made the complaint I don't know but it is pretty sad, what about the millions of karaoke and band performances posted on the web? Are we gonna have a blanket ban on anything other than totally self written and performed produced musical performances?

Lisa 10 months ago

I am a songwriter and I understand all of your complaints but you don't understand the frustration of having your work stolen. I am currently going after an overseas Karaoke label. They have recorded and have been selling my song for 3 years. I have written letters telling them that I have not given them a license and they continue. They sell my song and it's being performed. You can not reproduce and profit from another's copywrited material! It's how we make a living. I receive absolutely zero and seeing my song sold on iTunes & Amazon is by thieves is infuriating. Everyone profits, the club who brings in customers, iTunes & Amazon who gets a share & the label. I wrote it, I get nothing and they don't even have my name on it. Oh and by the way, this is the 3rd label in as many years that I have found my material on. Now to the subject of youtube, even I think that's a bit much. Most people want to put up a cute video of their kid singing or something funny from a wedding. I guess what has triggered the copyright crack down is YouTube channels that get paid for advertisements. Now they are profiting from their video. I think if they would exempt non partner YouTube channels that earn no money, which is most average people wanting to put up cute things of their kids, everyone would be happy. I also give permission of almost everyone who has asked to use my material. As for contacting them, find the songwriter's name and they are generally registered through ASCAP or BMI.

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