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Topic: Licensing / Copyright Question

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  1. #1

    Licensing / Copyright Question

    Hi all

    I've been lurking this site for a year or so now, so I feel like I know some of you a little, even though you don't know me.... I'm a shy poster...! But, no more - I step out of the shadows....!

    My company publishes and licenses new and existing music for commercial release, sync, premiums etc. I'm a composer too and write for tv / film etc. However, in the last couple of days I got a commission for a game. (Hurrah!) Not much money, but a reasonable start anyway...

    Here's the question - licensing music / exploiting copyrights / publishing is my game - but I'm currently a little confused as to one aspect of this, within the Game field. As there is not much money, I have agreed a non-exclusive license (which will help me recoup the costs by my licensing elsewhere). But what about the musical copyright (publishing element)? Do composers usually sign over 100% of the musical copyright too? In the world of the Music CD (commercial release) that would be frowned upon - I presume it is different with Games? Are there never any mechanical royalties?

    I could go on, with some follow up questions to this, but I'll let you get stuck into his one first....

    Appreciate your time. I look forward to being more conversive, now that I've registered....

    Cheers
    Pete

    - Perfectspace -
    Music Licensing, Publishing & Production

  2. #2

    Re: Licensing / Copyright Question

    Hi, copyright is almost always signed over in games. Usually, the only chance you might have of keeping your copyright is if you deal directly with the publisher.

    Developers dont have the power to let you keep your copyright in all the cases Ive dealt with them.

    One loophole is to try and keep rights for a game soundtrack in the event that one might ever be done.
    ---------------------------
    - SCA - Sound Studios -
    www.sca-soundstudios.com
    ---------------------------

  3. #3

    Re: Licensing / Copyright Question

    Hmmm... this is what I suspected.

    So - next question - I guess there's little point in licensing the Sound Copyright non-exclusively, as I won't be able to exploit it effectively anyway (eg for sync) if I don't own any publishing rights within the musical copyright?! Unless, I am able to license the musical copyright non-exc as well, so that no mechanicals are payable, by the publisher, for that particular usage? Anyone know if this is possible?

    Also, as this game is going to distributed primarily as a download, any other issues I should be aware of? Experiences?

    Cheers all, for your continued help here... As a music publisher, mechanical and performance royalties play such a huge role in my work/revenue - I'm having trouble understanding how the Game Industry manages to get round this area of copyright so seemingly easily! I can understand composers giving away 100% of the Master rights - but why the Musical/Publishing rights in everything too?

    Peter
    Music Licensing, Publishing & Production

  4. #4

    Re: Licensing / Copyright Question

    Big favour....

    Does anyone have a sample agreement / contract they could send me for a non-exclusive license of music for a Game, please?

    With thanks
    Peter
    Music Licensing, Publishing & Production

  5. #5

    Re: Licensing / Copyright Question

    Quote Originally Posted by Scott Cairns
    Hi, copyright is almost always signed over in games. Usually, the only chance you might have of keeping your copyright is if you deal directly with the publisher.

    Developers dont have the power to let you keep your copyright in all the cases Ive dealt with them.

    One loophole is to try and keep rights for a game soundtrack in the event that one might ever be done.
    Exactly what I have done.

  6. #6

    Re: Licensing / Copyright Question

    Peter,

    Ok, here's the deal. You have a talk with a low budget gaming company and you agree on a non-exclusive license. Ok? Got it so far? The key word is here license.

    Next you receive the contract, and it's asking that you sign over the copyright to your work....guess what Peter? It ain't a license no more!

    Everybody, repeat after me.....license, buy-out, license, buy-out.

    Why is this concept so difficult for people to understand?

    Apparently if you guys had originally agreed that you were licensing the music, and then later the contract stated that you were signing your copyright (and publishing) away, that means that the terms of the contract were changed without telling you.

    So get a lawyer if you really care about this issue.

    For everyone else, despite what your experience might be, there are exceptions to the rules. If the bozos don't have an adequate budget for the music, it's quite normal for them to simply license the music and not own it (or the publishing rights). A music library company never sells the music to a videogame developer. Do you think that when EA licenses the latest Blink 182 track for one of their games, they are getting the publishing? Think again. So why should it be any different with your music if they don't have an adequate budget?

    Get a lawyer, or at the very least confront them concerning them changing the terms of the contract without telling you.

    There are no standards in the world of low-budget games (or movies or TV, etc. etc.), you can always negotiate, so take the opportunity to negotiate.

    The less we behave like sheep, the less others will think of us as sheep.
    >>Kays
    http://www.musicbykays.com
    Music Composition for Feature Films, Television and Interactive Entertainment

  7. #7

    Re: Licensing / Copyright Question

    Hi, copyright is almost always signed over in games. Usually, the only chance you might have of keeping your copyright is if you deal directly with the publisher.

    Developers dont have the power to let you keep your copyright in all the cases Ive dealt with them.
    Scott,

    I know that this has been your experience, but your statement is incorrect and misleading to your composers who don't know any better. As I mentioned in my previous post, when a developer licenses a track (say from a band) they absolutely don't own the copyright to that song (they may ask for it, but they're not going to get it). Developers and Publishers are perfectly content with a comprehensive license for the music, unfortunately many of them don't know, and this is why it's vital to have a lawyer to protect your rights.
    >>Kays
    http://www.musicbykays.com
    Music Composition for Feature Films, Television and Interactive Entertainment

  8. #8

    Re: Licensing / Copyright Question

    Thanks Midphase - I appreciate your reply. However, you appear to have some misconceptions about my situation.

    I am a music licensing consultant, music publisher and composer in the music world (not the game world), so I have a very clear and good understanding of what a license is.

    I had 2 questions, that I think are slowly being answered.

    1. Musical Copyright / Publishing. As I understand it, some of the bigger Publishers must pay mechanicals, as quite often (as you have mentioned Mid) they license big tracks in. The game I am writing for is initially only available as a Download through website portals, so I think there should also be some Mechanicals to be paid by whoever is making it available for purchase - similar to any MP3 site (Itunes etc etc).

    2. My second question was to ask if anyone had a sample contract. I'd lke to see the differences between my standard music licensing contracts, and contracts pertaining to Games.

    I agree with all your sentiments Midphase. I make my living out of licensing, and I love the whole business. And because of this I have concerns about the concept of signing away both sound AND musical copyright when writing for games. You are right - it would be good if more people could break the mould, and get what's due to them. As I said before, the practise of signing away your right to musical copyright in a work is generally frowned upon in my music world (and I license to clients worldwide) although I do get asked to do this for Asian clients occasionally (I usually refuse).

    Mechanical and Performance copyright royalties can be substantial - and it is important to note that these will NOT be paid by the Developer. They are paid by whoever manufactures, or broadcasts. I think composers might do well to point this out when negotiating with Developers - it isn't going to cost them any more (although obviously the Publishers may object).

    Anyway, I'm new to Game Audio, so I understand that my comments may be nieve.

    Thanks people. (If anyone has that sample contract, could you.....)
    Peter
    Music Licensing, Publishing & Production

  9. #9

    Re: Licensing / Copyright Question

    Peter,

    Here in the US, companies generally don't pay out mechanical to composers, the work is generally understood as being a buy-out and the composer receives their fees and possible bonuses or percentages based upon their specific agreement.

    Your case is a bit different, but not because you are a music library, but because you're working on a game which doesn't pay the standard composing rate (generally $1000-1500/mixed minute) so you are trying to keep your copyright to the music so that you can sell it elsewhere. In this case you need to retain the copyright of the music and not the company.

    I don't think you'll find sample contracts around here simply because most composers negotiate a buy-out deal. You need to find a music licensing contract which you can easily obtain on the web with a bit of searching around....however I still recommend getting a lawyer if you are at all interested in really protecting your rights.
    >>Kays
    http://www.musicbykays.com
    Music Composition for Feature Films, Television and Interactive Entertainment

  10. #10

    Re: Licensing / Copyright Question

    Further to my comments above, I happened upon this:

    www.igda.org/columns/lastwords/lastwords_Sep05.php

    Jim's Point 1, Paragraph 5 was of particular interest to my situation (although he makes his point rather bluntly, without much regard for those who have to earn a living!).

    Better still though, I very much like and agree with this:

    www.igda.org/columns/lastwords/lastwords_Oct05.php

    His proposal that Game Publishers should also become music publishers, would really generate extra income for all composers (for no extra work!). Perhaps in time, this might start to happen slowly....

    btw - thanks to those who helped me with the above question. I composed and then (non-exclusively) licensed all the audio with ancillary rights etc, with a clause specifying that I wouldn't license the music for another game. I am still publishing the work too. Seems to have worked out well for both sides.

    Cheers
    Pete

    Perfectspace
    Music Licensing, Publishing & Production

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