Last week, the NY Times ran an interesting article, here, about how many old TV programs now available on streaming services are missing music that was featured on the original broadcast. This was because when the music rights were initially purchased, their use was limited to over-the-air broadcasts or was limited to a short period of time, with the producers never envisioning that the programs would be available through on-demand streaming services decades after they originally aired on over-the-air television. While not mentioned in the article, for many radio broadcasters one of the series most missed on streaming services is the industry favorite WKRP in Cincinnati. That series took forever to get to digital outlets, and still does not appear to be on any subscription streaming service, reportedly because of music rights issues. This article and the issues that it highlights should be a warning not just to TV producers, but also to anyone planning to use music in audio or video productions – including podcasts and online videos – that clearing music rights is essential to insure that these productions can be fully exploited not only when they are first made available, but also in the future if they are repurposed for other platforms.
We have written before (see, for example, our articles here and here) about the need to get permission from the copyright holders in both the musical work (or musical composition – the words and music to a song) and in the sound recording (or master recording – the song as recorded by a particular band or singer). Just signing up with a performing rights organization (ASCAP, BMI, SESAC or GMR) is not enough because, while podcasts may involve the public performances of the musical works that these organizations license, they do not give rights to make the permanent fixed copies of those songs, synchronized with other audio in the podcast, that can be accessed and downloaded on demand. These uses require the additional copyrights to reproduce and distribute music, and arguably to make derivative works, that can only be obtained from the copyright holder (see our article here describing why the PRO license itself does not give all rights needed to use music in podcasts). Similarly, the rights to the sound recording must also be obtained from the copyright holder in the recording – and payments to SoundExchange do not cover the on-demand music uses involved in a podcast. Thus, when the necessary rights are not obtained from the copyright holders, we have seen podcasts go silent after infringement claims are brought or threatened (see our article here).
Continue Reading Missing Music On Streamed TV Programs Highlights Rights Issues for Podcasters and Video Producers