Sunday, December 28, 2014

Info To Consider When Posting Covers on Content Streaming Sites

Helpful Preliminary Info for posting "Cover" songs on Youtube or elsewhere. 
(repost of notes by Eliot )

".. Bexy's response is misleading.

It may be true that YouTube won't flag you for using a karaoke track, if it isn't exactly the same as the original.

However, it isn't strictly *legal*.

First, there is the song itself. It is owned by a composer, writer, and publisher (sometimes all the same person). These people spent time making the song, and want money whenever the song is used. If it were you, you'd want the same thing.

Bars pay a fee to play the radio (BMI and ASCAP), so do restaurants. The money is divided among all of the members of their organizations.

When a song is on YouTube, YouTube uses algorithms and reporting to determine if a song is the same as a copyrighted song. If it is, it will be flagged, depending on whether or not the artist is exerting their copyright. This could lead to an account being closed if it happens too often.

Some cite seeing cover songs as a reason to believe it's okay to rerecord a song. Technically, this is true, if you do what they do, which is pay for the privilege. Most artists make their songs available on Harry Fox, a clearinghouse for use rights. Basically, artists say "sure, you can cover my songs, here's what it will cost, and you don't have to ask me each time, just pay here." When a cover artist makes their album, they first look to see if the songs are available and what the cost is, usually it's a multiple of how many units they plan to sell, and often it's not a huge amount. They pay ahead, hoping to recoup the costs with album sales.

Note that this is for a re-recording of the song, not using the original recording as their back-up track. I am unaware of any artist making their backing tracks available for people to cover their songs, they expect you will hire musicians or redo the backing tracks yourself, even if you plan on making it sound exactly the same. One reason for this is that the song writing rights are separate from the song recording rights. If I record a song I haven't written, I own the recording rights, so that people have to ask me to use my recording. But, if it's a cover, they also have to ask the original writer of the song.

Now we come to karaoke. Karaoke companies also have to obtain permission from the writer to use their music. They pay fees for this (unless they are operating illegally, which there is some question about that). Technically, they pay for both words AND music, although some companies try and skirt the words fees by putting in incorrect words. After all, the singer in the bar or home is the one singing, who knows what they will say? It's bogus, but some companies get away with that.

Now, when you go to a karaoke bar that either uses CDGs or a computer, the host has paid for those CDGs, and therefore is allowed to use them wherever they perform. If they are using a computer, karaoke companies have a new thing that they do which is to demand a license fee unless you can prove you own the CDGs and only are using the songs at a single show. Otherwise, there is a separate fee for buying digital karaoke tracks, and often it's something that has to be renewed at great cost to legitimate hosts.

Now, what do you think? Do you think it's a good idea to put a karaoke track in the background of your YouTube song? Odds are the music is very close to the original; close enough for YouTube's algorithm to match it to the original song. That means you are in danger of a copyright infringement there. Next, you have the karaoke companies who are realizing they have an interest to protect. If your posting becomes popular, it's only a matter of time before the karaoke company may learn that you are singing to their track on YouTube, thus infringing on their copyright.

Even if you don't make any money, you are using their actual work to create something new, and YouTube gets a benefit from that. However, YouTube didn't post it, you did, so if asked, they will pull it down to avoid any nasty legal business.

Where things get a little hazier is if you perform the music yourself. Technically, that would also be an infringement, but in practice, most artists don't mind that kind of infringement and don't follow up so long as you aren't making any money directly. They see the benefit of allowing you to do this, as they get some exposure and you have to work pretty hard to use it.

When it comes to posting a song with graphics on YouTube, that is a little bit different now, because a lot of artists have a deal with YouTube the same way they do with bars and restaurants. If an artist agrees, then ads that are run on their songs will give them revenue, or even allow them to promote new works. Some artists see the benefit, and so those uploads stay. Artists that don't will have YouTube remove those videos.

The bottom line: no, you shouldn't use pre-recorded karaoke tracks to sing songs on YouTube, because technically it is illegal, and it's likely YouTube will pull them.

If you were going to ignore this advice, then at least try to limit yourself to music that YouTube has arranged to allow on its site:

There are plenty of songs that you could use in a video, so it's likely (although no guarantees) that you could use a karaoke track of the same song and nobody would blink. But do so at your own risk.

Finally, if at any point anything you do on YouTube is flagged or removed, think VERY carefully. Your best choice is to just stop doing whatever it was, as YouTube is not very nice to repeat offenders. If you think you're in the right, you can contest the pull down, and sometimes it works. But in all likelihood, you should just let it go and do something else.

And there are also sites which have done all the license work for you. Check out:

They appear to allow you to record songs, some for free, off of their site. I believe that means you could then upload the results to YouTube, but YMMV




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