September 30, 2011
If I Had Stew - The major label responseWell, I'm gobsmacked! No wonder the major labels are in so much trouble. A complete contrast in the response from two publishers in my pursuit of a simple clearance to record my parody.
First things first - credit where it's due. I had sent my request for a clearance to Kobalt Publishing, and got a response a week later saying that the person I had sent it to was going on maternity leave (congratulations and best wishes, Anna!) and that, subject to EMI's approval from Savan Kotecha, their client was happy to approve the parody. Wonderful service, great response - love Kobalt's motto: "Music Publishing for the 21st Century".
EMI's response, on the other hand, ranged from confusing to frustrating. The initial response to my completed form was:
What is your main goal for this use?
Fair question, so I responded to clarify:
To be honest, my main intention is to make the song for my own amusement.
That got me what seemed like a pretty straightforward response:
There are a few elements in which we would need to clear to give you approval to license this song. We will need to clear the lyric changes with the writers and the synchronisation rights with the copyright owners but primarily you will need to get approval to create a parody which can be difficult to get approval for.
Putting aside the assumption of 100% of publishing, this seemed fair enough ... mainly because of the first bit, in which EMI plainly says that the hardest part is securing "approval to create a parody". That's what I'd expected and that's all I've asked for at this stage, and if the writer says no, the sync fee is irrelevant, right? Cool, full speed ahead with the waiting patiently for approval.
To let EMI know that Kobalt's writers were happy and thereby hopefully speed up the process, I sent EMI the approval email from Kobalt. This might have been a mistake, because EMI then responded with:
I just want to clarify with you that we are the licensing department of EMI Publishing, so we are quoting you on the synchronisation rights if you intend on using the work in a video clip.
If you want to request approval to record and release this song you will need to get in contact with our copyright department.
Please confirm what your intentions are for this usage.
By coincidence, I had just that day mentioned this project to my colleague, Tyler McLoughlan, who runs her own licensing company and works with EMI regularly. She gave me the view that I had been talking to the wrong people and that I needed to contact the copyright section directly. Well, OK. I wrote back:
Yes, the difference was recently brought to my attention by a colleague who works in Sync licensing.
This is where things got a bit ... well ... weird, frankly. In reply I got this question:
Will you be getting a mechanical license from AMCOS before putting this song on youtube or will you be putting it on youtube before you get a mechanical license?
Now, this takes me back to where I started. I went to the APRA/AMCOS website and read their Fact Sheet about doing parodies, which said that before I could ask for a license to release anything I had to secure written permission from the copyright holders to record the song. That's what started me on this quest ...
I got a bit confused by this, since I thought I'd made it pretty clear that all I wanted was permission from the writers and that I'd deal with the license fees after that was secured. In replying, I confused my types of copyright but still kept it pretty clear, I thought, that I just wanted to get things cleared properly over time:
That depends on whether I am allowed to use Sony's backing music or whether I have to completely re-record it myself ... still no word from Sony.
Perhaps picking up on my confusion, EMI confused me further
So does this mean that you do not intend to release the song with a mechanical license prior to putting a video on youtube?
How can I synchronize the recording to the video without a mechanical license, I thought, and then, why would I bother releasing the video without an MP3 available thru iTunes or similar to capitalise on the opportunities that would (hopefully) arise? At this stage, all I want is permission from the copyright holders to record the parody, so I replied with:
Hmmm ... well ... I was thinking
I now have a feeling that my biggest mistake here was not referring to the APRA Fact Sheet and then demanding to speak to the Copyright division but ... what would I know? I'm struggling to understand why this is such a complicated process for what seems to me to be a very simple request. Then I got this:
To get permission, you will need to clarify what you are intending to do. If you would like to proceed with obtaining permission for the internet use then please confirm you agree to the terms we quoted you on earlier (approval is valid for 4 weeks only and we do no guarantee that the copyright owners will approve).
Ok, well ... the first sentence makes sense from their perspective, They want to know what they're giving permission for ... but I'm still working on the basis that I need permission to do it before I can even think about licensing the results of doing it. My time frames for production of this sort of thing are measured in months, not weeks, so I replied with:
I have no intention of releasing a CD with this song on it in the foreseeable future. My next CD will be out before the end of the year and will be all original songs.
EMI's response dropped my jaw and made me uncomfortably aware of the value of picking up the phone rather than pissing about sending emails that talk past people:
We can not give you permission to do anything with the song until you commit to a sync license (internet video) or a mechanical license (release) so please confirm if and when you are ready to proceed.
OK, so let me get this straight: EMI will not contact the writer and ask for permission for me to make a parody unless I fork out $1000 upfront and possibly also a mechanical license ... for a song I might not be given permission to make and that might turn out to be unreleasable ...
Alternatively, they won't ask for permission for me to record the parody until ... I've recorded it and know what I'm gonna do with it. No wonder people are just breaking the rules and doing what they want with recorded music!
Can anyone explain this to me? Have I missed something? My gut is telling me to ditch this, pick up the phone and speak to someone from the copyright section who will approach Savan Kotecha and ask him.
In fact, Fuck EMI. Does anyone know Savan Kotecha and can you ask him to contact me directly? I just wanna know what he thinks and I'm quite happy to give him credit and whatever proceeds might result from this parody should it ever see the light of day ...
Posted by Hughie at September 30, 2011 7:59 PM