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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