How Photographers Can Respect Music Copyrights and Licensing Fees
What if you stumbled upon a website when you were surfing the web and there was an amazing image of a beautiful little girl. It happens to be that the website is selling a service. But you look closer and you discover it is YOUR picture! Stop the presses! What? You didn’t give anyone permission to use that image. Why is it on a business website? Why is your perfect picture of an angelic little girl promoting a home cleaning company? You immediately write to the owner of the company and demand an explanation and removal of the image off the site. The company owner suggests, “I just love the image! It’s beautiful and it complements my service so well. I thought I’d be helping promote your photography skills… (By putting up your image without permission nor a link to your website).”
Totally irritating, isn’t it? Oh yeah… and illegal! But it’s ok to use a popular song on your website without paying a license fee? You are just promoting that song and the artist and they should be happy to have their song getting exposure. Right?
It amazes me how many professional photographers are using songs on their websites without paying the proper license fees. Either the photographers don’t realize there are laws about using music or they are trying to get away with something; hoping not to get caught, or they think the musician should be happy to get free exposure on their website. What ever your argument is, it’s illegal.
Perhaps you truly didn’t know that the music you use on your website, slide-shows, blogs, etc. needs to be licensed. Your website is only promoted in one part of the country. Surely no one from the record company/the musician/the Musical Society will care that you are using an unlicensed song. But here is the deal. Record companies are finding out that people, just like you, are using music that belongs to them. Bars and restaurants are being fined for not paying their license fees to ASCAP and small business owners are being ordered to remove the music or face being sued. BMI, ASCAP and the record companies have interns surfing the web, youtube.com, bars and every other place you can think of to you find you. Then fine you.
So what can you do to stay out of trouble? You have a few options. If there is a particular song of you just love and must have, you can pay a “New Media/Internet” license fee to BMI, ASCAP or the Harry Fox Agency. These companies oversee their clients’ (the writers and performers) licenses and copyrights to their songs. The other option you have is to license music from a company such as Triple Scoop Music. They offer very affordable usage fees on songs for your purpose. You can also commission musicians to custom write/record a song for your particular use. This option is similar to Triple Scoop however you would be the only person who would receive a license for that song.
It’s not fun when someone uses your work without permission or paying for it. It is important to be respectful of other artist as well. Please make sure you get permission to use the music. A lot of blood, sweat and tears went into writing and recording that song. The writers and performers need to be respected just as you are when you capture your beautiful images.
Michelle Tanner is a lifestyle photographer from Minneapolis. She is also a musician. Her husband, Patrik Tanner, is a singer/songwriter and together they own a recording studio. They also have a rockin’ two year old son. Patrik wrote and recorded custom songs for Michelle’s website and blog.