Who owns rights to the use of the song in Film?
September 30, 2008 5:48 AM   Subscribe

Can someone please explain how to get Synchronization Rights to a Cover Version of a song? Or who would have control of whether you can use a cover version in a film.

For example, in say the Life Aquatic parts of the sound track use Seu Jorge cover versions of David Bowie songs (sung in Portuguese).

So who's permission do you need (who do you pay) to use a recording like that in a Film (I assume, TV, DVD, etc are the same)?
posted by mary8nne to Law & Government (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: There are two separate groups of rights at issue here and because of that, the phrase "synch rights to a cover version" doesn't actually work. Synch rights (the right to synchronize an image to a piece of music) belong to the music publisher or music library. For a published song, that usually means they are administered by one of the big publishing royalties organizations: ASCAP, BMI or SESAC. To use a particular sound recording (in other words, a particular version or cover) of a song you also need Master Rights. Those are obtained, separately, from the owner of the sound recording. That varies, but it's typically the record company.

Rights clearing is a complicated process, but that's the basic idea. IAAL; IANYL; IANA[Entertainment]L.
posted by The Bellman at 6:45 AM on September 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Just a quick correction to The Bellman's answer... in the U.S. you'll need to obtain sync rights directly from the music publisher or administrator of the song, because the PROs (ASCAP, etc) only handle performance rights. You can, however, use the PRO websites to figure out who the music publisher of a particular song is, and how to contact them. Good luck!
posted by departure lounge at 7:16 AM on September 30, 2008

Thanks for the correction, dl. That's what I get for being on the legal side rather than the practical side!
posted by The Bellman at 8:43 AM on September 30, 2008

Depends on what you plan to do with the film. "Festival rights" are often much easier and cheaper, but then you'll need to either pay more or swap the music for something cheaper if you get a theatrical/dvd release later.

basically, do your homework before you shoot anything and talk to a professional. Music clearances is a full-time job on a movie, not something done lightly with a few phone calls.

Be especially careful of ending up like that girl on the frontpage post: don't sync a piece of film rigidly to a piece of music unless you are 100% sure you can get the rights. And if you absolutely must, film the scene twice: once with the "dream" music, and once with a backup you know is public domain or affordable.
posted by drjimmy11 at 8:46 AM on September 30, 2008

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