Copyright or Copywrong?


You feel lucky, punk?

I had a client a few years ago, who pushed me hard to use copyrighted music at one of their town hall meetings. As a musician as well as a video producer, I was well acquainted with the laws surrounding the use of unauthorized music and graphics. What are the odds of getting caught? High enough to put your company, your client or organization in jeopardy if the whip comes down.

When my client gave me the copyrighted music on a CD, I chose this moment to dig my heels in. Beyond the fact that the music sucked, I was streaming it around the world and copies of the video would go to everyone in the organization.

I barely survived that brush with unemployment. Luckily, legal thought I was a godsend. I made some enemies though. I will be more politically correct in the future.

Did you know that even your favorite club band is supposed to join the musician’s union, usually ASCAP or BMI, to cover the costs of reproducing a song live for profit? I know and I paid.

Back to the odds. Even if the authorities don’t bag you, you still run a chance of jeopardizing your relationship with the legal department of the client you’re supplying content to.

Case in point: I had a friend of mine who contracted me to edit and deliver 300 DVDs within hours of the conclusion of a large meeting.

They were meant as a remembrance of the week they had just spent together. Nice touch.

On the golfing section of the video, my friend chose to edit in sections of a very famous, very funny golf movie, Caddy something or other. 🙂

Now, you might be thinking, “what’s the harm and what are the odds?” Pretty good it turned out. Hollywood didn’t nab him but the head of legal at this prestigious insurance company sure did. As the video was playing on this enormous screen, much to the delight of the audience, the legal eagle sidled up to my friend and said ” do we have permission to use that footage?” My friend had no answer. Later, he had no gig.

So, if you want to take license with intellectual property, it might not be the record company that decides your fate, it could be someone in the wings you hadn’t counted on to bring you up short.

My reasons are self serving:

First of all, I never want to look like I don’t have a firm grasp of all the intricacies in my chosen field.

Second, If you are providing content to a large company as I was, you just put a huge bulls eye on their behind. It will not be appreciated.

Speaking of, I recently attended a meeting on how to make your power points more effective. This was a must attend as I help my clients with their presentations and I couldn’t pass this meeting up.

It was a very good investment of my time and money.

At the beginning, the presenter showed how the use of images was a lot more effective with the caveat that you’d better know your material and be careful with copyrighted images. Good information. Think Steve Jobs.

But towards the end of his presentation when his slides bordered on mind blowing, the $64,000 was asked, “Where’d you get that picture?” His answer was cringe-worthy, “Well, I’m taking my chances with that one.”

Wrong! You could see how uncomfortable he was and how quickly he wanted to move on.

He came down a few notches in my estimation right then and there. See how easy the fall can be?

Misleading copyright information has been around for decades and it’s not going away anytime soon but you can go away real soon.

Be careful out there.

Please note: I welcome comments that are offensive, illogical or off-topic from readers in all states of consciousness.

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