When we undertake video production for promotions or other reasons, we usually look for music. Sometimes it functions merely for background or mood; at other times it forms the basis of the video, as with the "lip-dubs" that some of our schools have done.
When music is added to our videos for any reason, the question of intellectual property rights – copyright – comes into play. Let's first consider why Christians will want to be very careful with this matter, and then what that attention could involve.
Care is called for on several levels. Consider these issues:
1) the legal issue: violations of the law are easy in this realm. In itself, that is a strong consideration, but add to that the possibility of significant punishment. Remember the woman in northern Minnesota who shared music files online and whom the industry decided to make an example of and was fined millions. Legal action would be a great embarrassment to our churches and schools.
2) the terms of service issue: Many of our distribution plans involve YouTube. These are the relevant paragraphs from the YouTube Terms of service:
"Section 6 Your Content and Conduct
"Part B. You shall be solely responsible for your own Content and the consequences of submitting and publishing your Content on the Service. You affirm, represent, and warrant that you own or have the necessary licenses, rights, consents, and permissions to publish Content you submit; ...
"Part D. You further agree that Content you submit to the Service will not contain third party copyrighted material, or material that is subject to other third party proprietary rights, unless you have permission from the rightful owner of the material or you are otherwise legally entitled to post the material and to grant YouTube all of the license rights granted herein."
That reads like express permission is needed for using the work of any artist.
3) the ethical issue: using an artist's work without permission disrespects their artistic integrity, and potentially harms them. It is stealing something that is theirs.
4) the modeling issue: Christians, representing their Lord, must be models of propriety. We cannot cause offense by leading anyone to violate conscience, or give the unbelieving world just cause to accuse us.
In sum, we need to be careful, not careless, about this matter.
There are several ways to manage copyright with integrity. One is to write and perform our own music. Just as we want to encourage our young filmmakers and graphic artists to develop their skills and use them for the Lord's work by developing high school and college courses in those areas, we ought to be encouraging our young would-be musicians in the same ways to compose and perform music for our own video productions. We believe that all of our schools should start visual production courses. Of course, the visual isn't all that is involved with media production. We need the composers too. While it remains important to teach students to play and appreciate the old music, we need good NEW music, of the kinds that can be used in media productions.
But that will go only so far.
For background and mood music, Lakeside students have used good legitimate music sources like Digital Juice and Freeplay Music. Bethany Lutheran College has no written policy on the music students use in their productions for viewing in classes and beyond, but much of the above is understood. Kurt Paulsen, who teaches Media Arts, said they let students use what they will for in-class assignments, but they understand they risk legal action by distributing it anywhere beyond that. Since students spend a lot of effort on their productions, virtually always with the hope that they can show them beyond the classroom, that pretty much precludes their use of any artist's work without permission. It just doesn't happen. Bethany makes its subscription libraries available to students for commercial work, broadcasts, or competition pieces.
Beyond that, many artists are willing to make their work available under conditions that they set; one way they do that is by using Creative Commons. Users should become intimately familiar with the various types of Creative Commons licenses. Paulsen reports that Bethany students sometimes use the Free Music Archive. There each track has copyright information connected with it, and students can become very aware of what is and what is not allowed. Most tracks are free to download and share, some are free to download and re-edit, some are free to download and synchronize. This last option, download and synchronize, is the most useful for video people and also the least common. But music tagged in that way can be found and used by those who look for it and know the Creative Commons language.
At Lakeside producers were able to obtain rights for the song on their lip dub, finding it quite easy to do. When they asked the label that owned the rights, they were granted permission in view of how the label would receive money for the commercials that play on the video once it was placed on YouTube. Here is their letter:
If the song's use is only for the YouTube video there is nothing you need to do or to pay. Our digital rights manager Mary tomorrow will claim property of the song in our YouTube content manager. You will be notified by YouTube that Bliss Corporation has claimed the song. If you agree to that you do not need to do anything and after someday you'll see commercials appearing on the video. That means the process went through and we will start monetizing the video part where the song appears. Todd, thank you for reaching out to us and thank you for using our song for your school video (which I did enjoy by the way). Any help or information you might need regarding this subject do not hesitate to get in touch with me anytime. All the best!
YouTube provides a resource for making music available in a responsible manner, showing how popular pieces of music may be used on YouTube. Most of the music will simply have advertisements put on the video, that is, they monetize your video. Producers who want to use the music can decide whether that would be acceptable to them.
And so Christian producers, who want to be scrupulously respectful of intellectual property rights, have available a variety of legitimate strategies to build the productions that meet their needs.
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