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Topic: Licencing advice needed

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  1. #1

    Licencing advice needed

    I know some of you have done/do sountracks for documentaries. I am in the process of writing a soundtrack for a production company. I just received their licencing contract and even though I am not a lawyer, the terms of the licencing seem very abusive to me (they want my children and grand children)

    Would someone be kind enough to either point me to the link for standard licencing contracts or better yet e-mail me an attachment at decaumette@optonline.net.

    I would be indebted to the person that helps me out here (but I won\'t sign anything about that either [img]images/icons/wink.gif[/img] )

    Thank you

  2. #2
    Senior Member Bruce A. Richardson's Avatar
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    Re: Licencing advice needed

    Originally posted by P de Caumette:
    I know some of you have done/do sountracks for documentaries. I am in the process of writing a soundtrack for a production company. I just received their licencing contract and even though I am not a lawyer, the terms of the licencing seem very abusive to me (they want my children and grand children)

    Would someone be kind enough to either point me to the link for standard licencing contracts or better yet e-mail me an attachment at decaumette@optonline.net.

    I would be indebted to the person that helps me out here (but I won\'t sign anything about that either [img]images/icons/wink.gif[/img] )

    Thank you
    <font size=\"2\" face=\"Verdana, Arial\">Hi Paul,

    I do this all the time, and am happy to help out.

    Make sure you retain ALL copyrights. You are granting a one-time, one-shot license of particular music for a particular production. Be sure that you retain full ownership of both AUTHOR and PUBLISHER copyrights, and that they are simply a licensee.

    This is VERY VERY VERY VERY VERY important. Author and Publisher copyrights are the way you will be paid your residuals. The production company you\'re working for does not deserve that money--it is yours. But almost all of them will try to screw you out of it, hoping you won\'t be aware enough to stop them. Be clear: You are striking a licensing deal, period. They are buying only the right to use your work in one specific case, and not purchasing ANY ownership.

    There will usually be some language to the effect that you don\'t own copyrights to their work, i.e., the production. That is fair--because you certainly don\'t have any right to claim ownership of any aspect of THEIR work. An attorney can sort that out for you, because sometimes these get entangled in the language and need to be very clearly deliniated.

    Make sure to strike out anything that describes subsequent uses. Let them know you are interested in subsequent placement, but that it needs to be negotiated on a per-use basis. You might even include that language, that you are giving them the right to negotiate for subsequent use. PBS boilerplates include this, and although the wording can sometimes look a little funny, these are generally harmless clauses. Try not to agree to any specific rates for subsequent use, unless they bend you over and the deal starts to crumble. At that point, agree to a fee for ONE subsequent use.

    If they start grumbling about exclusivity, offer up a finite period, say one year of exclusivity. However, do not let them tie this to copyright or ownership. All music should be owned by you at all times, otherwise, tell them you\'d be happy to negotiate a buyout. DO NOT CAVE IN!!!!

    Those are the biggest potential problems.

    Now, that said, you should immediately go find an experienced entertainment attorney, and get a consultation on this contract before signing it. Even though I regularly deal with licensing contracts, I am always amazed at the little things my attorney finds. He has gotten me a better deal in exactly 100% of the contracts I have given him for review.

    If you are feeling bad about this contract, that is a RED FLAG!!!! Get a lawyer...and good luck. Once you\'ve gone through several of these, you won\'t entirely be able to shake the creepy feeling you get when you sign, but it will get a little easier.

  3. #3

    Re: Licencing advice needed

    While in theory I think keeping the ownership and publishing is a great concept, it seems on most TV projects you keep writer\'s share and the production co./or network takes the publishing. If they\'re licensing existing tracks from you (similar to them using a music library), then that\'s one situation where you would keep both. But if you\'re writing new music for their production, usually there will be a composer agreement which says basically that you get paid x$ and keep the writer\'s share and they own it and take the publisher\'s share. The only situations where that is usually negotiable is on low budget films where they don\'t have much $$ so you can negotiate to keep publishing. But I have never seen a cable/network deal that allows you to keep publishing. Or maybe I need Bruce\'s agent....

  4. #4

    Re: Licencing advice needed

    Bruce, Jeff & Hudson

    I am very grateful for your insights.

    The fees I am receiving do not justify giving away publishing. I might agree to give the production company exclusive licensing for a limited period of time.

    What time frame do you recommend for the exclusivity: one year, 5 years...?

    I want to stay fair but not to be taken advantage of in a big way...


    Thank you [img]images/icons/smile.gif[/img]

  5. #5
    Senior Member Bruce A. Richardson's Avatar
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    Re: Licencing advice needed

    Originally posted by P de Caumette:
    Bruce, Jeff & Hudson

    I am very grateful for your insights.

    The fees I am receiving do not justify giving away publishing. I might agree to give the production company exclusive licensing for a limited period of time.

    What time frame do you recommend for the exclusivity: one year, 5 years...?

    I want to stay fair but not to be taken advantage of in a big way...


    Thank you [img]images/icons/smile.gif[/img]
    <font size=\"2\" face=\"Verdana, Arial\">Start with an offer of no exclusivity, and see how it goes. Give them a year if they scream. I would try to avoid giving them more than that. It\'s fair for them to want the shows theme to be exclusive, but you might try to even cap that at five years. The shelf life of a documentary is very short compared to a piece of music, so fairness is on your side.

  6. #6

    Re: Licencing advice needed

    Thanks Bruce,

    you the man!

  7. #7

    Re: Licencing advice needed

    Granted, everything Bruce has said makes sense. However, if this is your first licensing scenario, don\'t scare them away. It might look good on your resume if you\'re trying to build a career doing this. We all \"whore\" out from time to time at the beginning. [img]images/icons/smile.gif[/img]

  8. #8

    Re: Licencing advice needed

    A very recent Electronic Musician (possibly still current) had a detailed article on this subject. Hidden in one of the side bars was a link to a web site that has a generic sample contract. It\'s very professional and fair. I\'m not at home, but perhaps this information will be enough to help you find it.

    Steve Chandler
    http://www.mp3.com/stevechandler

  9. #9

    Re: Licencing advice needed

    OK, I found it, here\'s a link to the article;

    http://emusician.com/ar/emusic_music_licensing_indies/index.htm

    Here\'s a link to the resources web site and the link to the sample contract;

    http://www.globalgraffiti.com/EM.htm

    I hope this is helpful.

    Steve Chandler

  10. #10

    Re: Licencing advice needed

    Keytar, I hear you.

    There are times when you have to swallow your pride and bend over in this business, but it all depends on the prize and how much bending you have to do. [img]images/icons/frown.gif[/img]

    The fact that I relocated from Paris to the USA and that I then had to switch from a promising performing career to a 100% composing/producing one (carpal tunnel) might justify making big concessions at first.
    But in this particular case the concessions are not justified considering the piece of cake.

    Did I forget to mention the woman I\'m dealing with is neurotic and abusive? [img]images/icons/mad.gif[/img] [img]images/icons/mad.gif[/img]

    I\'ve made up my mind. Either we sign a standard licencing agreement or I get to keep the music and feed my stock library (Bruce comments make sense to me)

    Steve,
    Thank you very much for going out of your way to get me this link. I\'ll download the standard licensing contract and mail it over to the production company.

    I want to thank all of you for your prompt and wise advice. It means a lot to me [img]images/icons/smile.gif[/img]

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