How Ke$ha Almost Got Me Fired

A Tale about Copyright:

A few months back, I was tasked to create a video for the company I was working for. I was told the video was to be a celebratory animation highlighting the milestones achieved by a group of service providers and different organizations. The video was to be presented during a kick-off event where the aformentioned organizations would be attending. So, me in my talented glory, did just that. The department I did it for absolutely loved it! I was so excited to present my work to a big group of influential people.

To spice things up, I decide to use the instrumental version of Ke$ha's Die Young. They wanted to get music that would get people really excited about the event and the work ahead, all of which the video was also highlighting. And me, a pop fanatic, wanted something that would engage more than just the canned stock music that is out there.

So the event comes, and it is widely enjoyed by the entire group. A representative from the Ministry of Health was there and said she would love a copy to give to the Minister. ‘THE MINISTER!?’, I thought excitedly.

About a month passes, and my boss sits me down. Suddenly, I am baraded about my use of the copywritten track.

“Did you get rights?”, she asked sternly.
“…no…”, I replied sheepishly.
“People get fired for mistakes like this! Companies get sued for mistakes like this”, she said.

As I was being severely reprimanded, I thought to myself, “I’m so dead. They will fire me.” I was told to promptly take the video (which was unlisted) down from our Youtube channel and go back to request use from Sony/BMG as well as change the track to a copyright free one. It was probably the most stressful day I had ever had at a workplace to date. But, lessons learned:

The use of copywritten music has exploded in the past little while. If you google a song off of Rihanna’s new album, one of the first places you will find it is a lyric video on Youtube. That is all breach of copyright. I am the first person to say that I completely value artists rights and their music. In fact, because of their decline in sales in this digital age, I wish there was a way to monetize their music as much as possible (for an affordable price). However, the copyright laws are very stringent right now. And paying for play rights for a song? I seriously have no clue how Glee does it. (And those are just covers!) Especially when it comes to film and television, there are so many times where you hear a song and say, “That would be perfect for this part of my film”. And after that you’d question, “I wonder how much it would cost for 30 seconds?” and shortly after finding out the outrageous price for 30 seconds asking yourself the fruitless question, “How best can I replicate something that sounds close to this?”

As an artist myself and on behalf of many independent, and almost always poor artists, there has to be an easier way! This age of technology allows artists to be more creative than they ever could have been in the past. The world is saturated (if not oversaturated) with amateur film makers who just want to put their work out there, and share their thoughts and ideas. Would it not be the same for music artists?

But I digress…

Don’t make the same mistake (however innocent, and well-meaning) it is still a mistake that 1) Never flies on professional productions and 2) Can get you in trouble if you’re not careful.

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