Copyright Songs a NO NO for Weddings

From TODAY dated 28th Dec 2009:—to-charge

SINGAPORE – Wedding couples planning to show video or photo montages accompanied by popular love songs – the de rigueur for wedding celebrations these days – should think twice: Either they cough up between $100 and $200 for each song or risk getting hit in the pocket for copyright infringement.

MediaCorp has learnt that the Composers and Authors Society of Singapore (Compass) – which represents over 1,000 composers and lyricists in Singapore, including JJ Lin and Taufik Batisah, and at least one million more members worldwide – is clamping down on the illegal use of copyrighted music for weddings.

It has sent letters to wedding photographers and videographers asking them to buy the licences for songs they wish to use – on their corporate websites and in their works – while stopping short of suggesting active enforcement.

Compass’ actions have left industry players in a limbo, with some even advising their customers against using copyrighted songs in their own amateur montages.

Engineer Benjamin Koh (not his real name), for one, has decided to do away with music completely on his photo montage, to be shown during his wedding reception next month.

His three-week effort would show pictures of their growing-up years and courtship days in silence, without the romantic love song he and his wife had chosen.

“It’s a bummer because it’s less touching without the music, but I’m not willing to pay for the licence,” said Mr Koh, 29, who learned about this from his wedding photographer.

When contacted, Compass confirmed that it has stepped up efforts this year to collect royalties from wedding videographers and photographers – it has been writing to them since January, asking them to pay licence fees.

The stricter enforcement arose from the “increasingly rampant” use of copyrighted material, the spokesman said, without disclosing how it arrived at such a conclusion.

Although most hotels pay an annual fee for the rights to play a list of copyrighted songs in their premises, the spokesman said wedding couples still need to pay to play copyrighted songs at their reception.

Penalties Unclear

Many couples told MediaCorp they were unaware of such a requirement and felt the licence fees were too costly.

“A wedding is a private event where you invite your close friends and relatives to celebrate together; not a public performance where you charge an entrance fee,” said newly-wed Felicia Lee, 25.

Compass declined to say what would happen to those who flout the rules but said it has not conducted “raids” at wedding receptions so far.

According to the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore website, remedies for copyright owners in civil lawsuits include injunctions, damages and account of profits. Depending on the flagrancy of the infringement, the court may also order additional damages to be paid by the infringing party to the copyright owner.

For now, it seems that those who make a living out of shooting wedding photos or videos are under closer scrutiny.

Said the spokesman: “The fundamental thing is the music is not created by you, so you can’t take someone else’s efforts and profit from it.”

Compass is apparently stricter about the use of music on the websites of photographers and videographers, and these lensmen fear business may suffer if it comes down equally hard on wedding montages.

“If Compass decides to clamp down on this and charge us, we will have no choice but to raise our charges,” said a freelance photographer.

Another felt that Compass should be more transparent. “They should state clearly who they represent, which are the copyrighted songs, and how much one has to pay for different uses – for example, on a website or for a photo montage,” he said. “That way, businesses will be more willing to pay for the licences because we can then prove to customers there’s a reason for raising our charges.”

So what does this mean for us? Only two ways out.

1. Using royalty free music which is about $100 per song (we have been doing this for a while but the choices are limited)
2. Working with COMPASS to licence popular songs

Unfortunately the article did not reveal all the facts in option 2. The truth is when it comes to using the songs for a wedding video, there is a need to pay multiple licences, namely Mechanical Rights for buring a DVD with the song, and Sycronization Rights for syncing it to Video.

The $200 is only for playing the songs as it is I think. Hence we have to pay loads more than $200 per use and there are multiple organizations to pay to use the songs.

How to do it? I have no idea so far. Calling the organizations did not help as no one could answer my questions early this year. If you do a search, there are many agencies that claim to licence / enforce copyright including RIAS. My impression is, they are right to enforce the rules as I myself have been a victim to copyright (some idiot sold my production in a pirate manner!!!), but there is no clear solution given. Give us an option like an annual licence fee of $500 for the use of such songs in a video perhaps? We can’t be charging wedding couples $500 per video.. who would pay???

It is time to call up again…

Update 300310:
Its HOT!! We now have a solution from RIPS@$2000 per year, but COMPASS and MPS has not released their share. The amount could be $6k in all. If that is the case, each wedding video would cost $300 for a 20 job per annum VG. Woah, the mass market guys charging below $2000 would be having a 15% increase in cost alone. There goes the wedding video industry.. lets hope the total fees would be a lot more afforable!

3 thoughts on “Copyright Songs a NO NO for Weddings

  1. Very interesting piece.
    The rights situation in Singapore seems quite confusing. Has the situation improved since you’ve written this? If the videographers are eventually caught for non-payment, are they forced to pay arrears?

    1. That’s right Derrek, there was enforcement some years back but they have gone quiet.

      At least they have improved to have a combined licence today so it saves the producer some trouble.

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