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Licensing media

In November 2016, the Ted Cruz for President campaign settled a lawsuit. Surprisingly, this complaint didn’t concern a political matter. Rather, the campaign was sued over copyright infringement and breach of contract regarding licensed media.

The very simple oversight—made by the campaign’s ad agency—demonstrates how licensing media is anything but straightforward. When it comes to licensing media, it is incumbent on the filmmaker to understand exactly what the terms of the license entail.

While blindly accepting the terms and conditions for personal websites may be common, when it comes to copyrighted material (like licensed media), you could end up on the receiving end of a civil case.

Read on to see how a breach of licensing terms landed the Cruz campaign in a lawsuit, and how you can avoid the same mistake.

Music to Politic By: Background of the Case

The Cruz campaign and ad agency Madison McQueen were sued in May 2016 by Audiosocket, a music licensing outfit based in Seattle. At issue were two downloaded songs, used in two separate campaign ads.

The crux of the lawsuit hinged on the complaint that the ad agency had acquired the wrong kind of license for two songs, which were used in two separate ads. The ad agency (and the Cruz campaign by extension) had a license and contract to use the licensed media. However, the license they acquired specifically excluded use by a political campaign, and also prohibited use in a broadcast on television.

License to Read the Legalese

The takeaway for filmmakers is that the fine print does matter.

Madison McQueen went to the trouble of acquiring a license and presumably disclosed to the Cruz campaign that they had done so. The ad agency and the campaign may have believed they were golden regarding the media licensing, even though they weren’t.

It’s far too easy for a filmmaker—or a PA—to download a great sounding song without paying detailed attention to the license. Everyone believes they’re in the clear until that exciting distribution deal puts the licensed media, and the entire film, at risk for a lawsuit.

And, as GeekWire reported, licensing agencies are using sophisticated digital watermarking to tie individual use of licensed media back to the original producers.

Watermarking technology, such as Lidcore’s License ID, encodes hidden information inside the media. This allows licensing agencies to match downloaded music from a YouTube video directly to the specific license that was purchased.

When combined with sophisticated web crawling technology, digital watermarking makes it very easy for licensing agencies to find and identify who is using their music — and to take action against those who are in violation of their licensing contract.

This exposure when licensing media isn’t limited to music, either. Using any of the following from third-party agencies could put your film at risk:

  • Art
  • Sound effects
  • Visual effects
  • Fonts

The good news is that there is a solution for filmmakers: getting a Review of Clearance Procedures.

This legal review, conducted by an experienced attorney, will examine your film and its associated paperwork and contracts. From media licensing contracts to cast and crew releases, a Review of Clearance Procedures helps to protect your film from the risk of a lawsuit.

Licensing media can be a cost-effective, time-saving way to produce a quality film. Make sure you’re protected with a Review of Clearance Procedures from The Clearance Lab.