Copyright, licenses, and YouTube videos

Posted In: Performing

  • Participant
    billooms on #232479

    What must one do to be “legal” when posting a video on YouTube when playing a harp rendition of a popular song (which is copyrighted)? Perhaps it is your own arrangement, or perhaps you are playing an arrangement written by someone else (which may also be copyrighted).

    When I look it up on the internet, it seems like it’s very complicated to get a sync license for doing a video. Yet one can find any number of videos from cute kids to recitals to more polished renditions. Do all these people just upload and hope for the best?

    My reason for asking is to provide a few videos for family/friends who would not be able to visit to see a performance in person.

    Participant
    evolene_t on #232651

    Hey Bill!

    I was wondering the same thing myself and finding infos is a bit harder than it seems. Here’s my understanding of it (bearing in mind that I play in France and copyright laws might not be the same).
    I strongly encourage anyone with better knowledge to correct or qualify what I’m saying.

    Concerning YouTube, I understand that they used to be extremely flexible and got progressively more aggressive, disappointing professional YouTubers.
    The biggest split seems to be : are you making money from your song?
    Making money off it : concerts, CDs, things like crowdfunding, and monetisation through publicities online.

    On YouTube, if your video is demonetized (that is, you don’t allow publicities to play and don’t intend to make money off it), you should be in the clear for most problems. And if it’s not allowed, the video will be banned/removed, but that’s about it, which shouldn’t be big of a deal. If I were you, I would indeed upload the song and hope for the best.

    Concerning the repertoire :

    After a while, songs fall in the public domain. In France, the timeline goes this way :
    → The author/musician writes a song and copyrights it, and keeps the profits
    → At the time of their death (on the next January actually), a 70-years timer starts. The song is still copyrighted and the proceeds go to their inheritors.
    → Then, 70 years later, the song fall in the public domain and anyone can use it. So anything written before 1949 is free to use.
    Edit : So, (in 2019) anything written by an author who died before 1949, should be free to use.

    It seems to be the same procedure for all countries belonging to the EEE (European Economic Union, so the EU Member States and a few countries like Switzerland).

    For the US, here’s what I found on Wikipedia :

    US copyright law traces its lineage back to the British Statute of Anne, which influenced the first US federal copyright law, the Copyright Act of 1790. The length of copyright established by the Founding Fathers was short, 14 years, plus the ability to renew it one time, for 14 more. 50 years later, it was changed to 28 years. It was not until a full 180 years after its establishment that it was significantly extended beyond that, in Copyright Act of 1976 to “Either 75 years or the life of the author plus 50 years”. and the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998 (also called the “Mickey Mouse Protection Act”, because it prevented the copyright from expiring on the first commercial success of the cartoon character Mickey Mouse), which increased it even more, to 120 years, or the life of the author plus 70 years.

    A lot of the Celtic harp repertoire is traditional, and is thus free of use. It generally cannot be traced back to a single author, too.

    What I’m unsure about is the song adaptations written recently by a composer. For example, Kim Robertson and Sylvia Wood publish quite a lot of arrangements of traditional songs. Could one use these songs on a CD or in a concert? Is referencing the composer enough? I feel that it’s not, and yet I wonder where the line is. Why do artists publish their score if they cannot be used, then?
    Furthermore, to what extent can an adaptation be a copyright infringement? If I take a traditional song, and transpose the Wood version in a different key and change the left-hand a bit, can I claim that composition as my own or not?

    What about the many, many adaptations of (for example) Disney songs, video game music, and movie score, both online, in concerts and on CDs? Do musicians pay every time?

    What about buskers or people playing in festivals, Renaissance Fairs, etc? It might be harder to prove their copyright infringement, but they definitely make money out of it.

    Should one want to make their own arrangements of traditional pieces, how difficult and expensive is it to copyright their work as a preventive measure?

    I’ll be grateful for anyone who can give more info!

    • This reply was modified 1 year, 8 months ago by evolene_t.
    Participant
    Tacye on #232662

    In the UK a venue needs to pay for a music licence, how much depending on the type and size of the venue, and then the Performing Rights Society distributes this to copyright holders. Big concert halls need to send in programmes, I believe, but the money from most venues gets divided up on a percentage basis. Likewise if you issue a CD you need to send in a licence fee for the copyright holders – and if your CD gets played a lot on the radio both you as performer and the composer get some of the fee the radio pays… The system is still catching up with the internet!

    Participant
    billooms on #232665

    I’ve done a CD several years ago, and I understand the process here in the U.S. which is actually quite straight forward. The question is about YouTube videos because videos are handled different than music CDs here in the U.S.

    I was inclined to just post something on YouTube and hope for the best. However, it was pointed out to me that if YouTube takes something down it’s a stike against you. 3 strikes from YouTube and you are completely banned.

    Participant
    Saul Davis Zlatkovski on #232999

    Youtube videos are not different, as far as I know. You need permission to post copyrighted music. Hence the apologetic statements by people who post, and definitely do not monetize your uploads. It is the sheer volume that prevents regulation, and YouTube’s unwillingness to do it. So, you may find a computer noticing your arrangement and blocking it. The simple solution is, keep it private, not public. Should it be public, anyway? What is your purpose in posting it? An alternative is to make a website and post it there, or on perhaps a Facebook page. Frankly, YouTube is so clogged with junk, it is a trial to find anything.

    Participant
    wil-weten on #233016

    This is very complicated matter and also depends on where in the world you live. In Europe e.g. the concept of ‘fair use’ does not exist.

    “→ At the time of their death (on the next January actually), a 70-years timer starts. The song is still copyrighted and the proceeds go to their inheritors.
    → Then, 70 years later, the song fall in the public domain and anyone can use it. So anything written before 1949 is free to use.”
    The second paragraph needs adaptation. 70 years after the death of the author, the song becomes public domain and anyone can use it. So, (in 2019) anything written by an author who died before 1949, is free to use.

    But, to complicate things, there are exemptions…. which may or may not be relevant, depending on where you live… Have a look at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copyright_Term_Extension_Act

    Participant
    billooms on #233027

    Saul — The private option seems like a good solution for what I want to do. I’ll look into how that works. Thanks.

    Participant
    evolene_t on #233126

    Thank you Wil-Weten for your addition, I edited my answer above to reflect that.

    Copyright infringement is indeed a much more complicated matter than I thought!
    I agree with Saul about the fact that the sheer number of videos prevent mass action on YouTube.

    I was inclined to just post something on YouTube and hope for the best. However, it was pointed out to me that if YouTube takes something down it’s a strike against you. 3 strikes from YouTube and you are completely banned.

    Right, but that doesn’t seem to be such an issue. If you get one warning, then you take down the video. And if you’re completely banned, well, it’s not like the police visits you in your home. It just means that an account linked to a certain email address cannot be used. You can always create a gmail account specifically for this harp video purpose.
    Saul’s advice (to make the videos private and/or use a different support) does seem to be the easiest way to go if you indeed just want to share a video with a couple of family members. Wanting to build up an online presence is another matter : an interesting endeavour but with other constraints!

    The more general questions about copyrighting (when to use a score, how to reference someone and how much can it cost) is harder to answer. Another question that I have : what about people that adapt famous music for their instrument? For example, a movie soundtrack meant for a whole orchestra, adapted to just one instrument, is a lot of work, but might still be copyright infringement. When is it an hommage (or, in literature, an fanfiction) and when is it copyright abuse?

    Participant
    wil-weten on #233138

    In the US, An homage may not hold as a defense to copyright infringement (see: https://www.morse.law/news/blurred-lines-copyright )
    I don’t know whether at least in some countries of Europe it would be seen as an infringement of copyright too, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this were the case, as an homage may be considered to be plagiarism, and so, in fact, be a case of copyright abuse.

    All member states of the EU still have their own copyright law and policy… and so, the situation in France will be different from the situation in the Netherlands. Here on the site of the European Union, : https://euipo.europa.eu/ohimportal/en/web/observatory/faqs-on-copyright after choosing your country, you will find 15 questions answered on Intellectual Property Rights.

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