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Demo Reel Music


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#1 Afton Grant

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Posted 22 July 2005 - 09:57 AM

Hey now,

In researching what makes a good demo reel, I've been checking out the reels of any other operators I come across. I've noticed many of them use contemporary or popular music for a soundtrack - music that is definitely under copyright. I'm wondering if anyone has ever had a problem with an artist or label regarding the use of their music in a demo reel. I know a demo reel is probably the least of a record company's copyright worries, but nonetheless, it's still technically an infringement.

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#2 Charles Papert

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Posted 22 July 2005 - 10:47 AM

It's a good question, Afton. I tend to use music from the actual film along with the footage, reasoning that the artist was originally compensated for that particular project. For the montages on my reels, I've been using Apple's Soundtrack app to create custom (and cleared) tracks.

Strictly speaking, creating a demo reel is "unauthorized duplication" of the footage to begin with. As you pointed out, it's accepted within the industry. I've yet to hear of any squawking about this.
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#3 Eric Fletcher S.O.C.

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Posted 22 July 2005 - 11:22 AM

Strictly speaking, creating a demo reel is "unauthorized duplication" of the footage to begin with. As you pointed out, it's accepted within the industry. I've yet to hear of any squawking about this.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>



Not so fast Tex, There is a clause in my deal memo that states that I will get footage and full use of that footage for my demo reel.

Therefore my Duplication is Authorized.
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#4 Jason Williams

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Posted 22 July 2005 - 12:38 PM

I tried to get copyright clearance to use on a demo reel I was putting on my site, but to this day, I've never actually got the go ahead, despite submitting all the info.

I contacted the appropriate authorities regarding copyright use (I can't recall exactly who this was as it's so long ago!), and they sent me a form to fill in, detailling all the information about the artist, title, what the purpose was, the length of the track to be used, how long it would be on the website, and what it's purpose was - I sent this back to them - and that's the last thing I heard.

Since then I've given up and am starting to use copyright free tracks - saves a lot of hassle!

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#5 thomas-english

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Posted 23 July 2005 - 06:12 AM

I think a lot of it would depend on the definition of a showreel and a commercial. Once your showreel starts being distributed in a more aggressive way like a commercial, then you start having a much higher chance of being sued.

I reckon I can give away showreels to people that ask for them. However I doubt if Howard or Pro produced a promotional DVD that they posted to thousands of people they would be allowed the same grace.

This becomes dodgy with having reels on the net. All of a sudden you can be unknowingly distributing your reel on a much greater scale.

The situation that Erik and Charles talk about is obviously fine.... because thats what it is, a showreel. Not yet heard of a mute one.
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#6 Rich Cottrell

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Posted 23 July 2005 - 11:35 AM

I am no layer but I am not sure if having a clause in a deal memo prevents you from being sued by a copyright holder. Unless the person who owns the copyright is the one who signs the deal memo [or if it is signed by their legally appointed representatives on the copyright] then I do not think you could used the deal memo in a court of law.

I am not working in the big times, but this is my understanding of how the business works:
For example, lets say we are shooting a Michael Jackson video.
I am hired by Video Production Company "A" who was hired by the Record Company "B."
Michael Jackson owns the copyright to his song, but he might share the copyright with his Record Company.
After the video is shot, the Record Company will probably own the copyright to the video. I do not know if this is shared with Jackson or not.
But either way the Video Production Company has no ownership in the video or song. They are hired guns just like we are. So if a Producer from the Video Production Company or the UPM sign off on my "demo reel clause" then they are agreeing to provide footage, but they legally have no right to approve the use of the copyrighted song or video for anything.
Only the legal copyright holders [and their official reps] have the power to do that.

A gray zone would be who owns the raw footage? If I use a take in my demo reel that is not used in the finished video and I do not use the original music either, am I in the clear in regards to copyright?

I have no idea.
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#7 Mitch Gross

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Posted 23 July 2005 - 10:05 PM

Rich is completely correct. A showreel clause in a contract does little to grant rights. Recorded music has both authorship (aka ownership) rights as well as performance rights, even if it is an instrumental. Even if your contract somehow granted you use of the authorship rights it certainly does not grant performance rights.

I so happened to do a job at ASCAP headquarters in NYC a few weeks ago in a room lined with plques, framed newspapers and printed court documents that went into great detail how this type of copyright issue went all the way to the US Supreme Court and was won in favor of the rights holder. That would mean that it would be against your use in a showreel, even if you gave them away for free (thereby "diluting" the value of the copyrighted material), and also the free argument is negated because you will get "eventual or tangential" value from the reels. The original court decision was against restaurants that had "free" live performances of musical numbers from famous Broadway shows, but the idea still holds true.

One can see that I had a lot of waiting time once I set up for this shoot.

All this said, I really don't think anyone cares and I certainly have music on my reel and expect that everyone else does as well.
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#8 Charles Papert

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Posted 23 July 2005 - 11:51 PM

I sort of thought this might be the case, even with permission from producers.

Even if someone did squawk, I'm sure (I hope!) all the lawyers would do would be to dash off a "cease and desist" rather than issue a suit. Then it's just a matter of changing out the music on the reel.

Out of curiosity, is everyone cutting their reels at home (or at a friend's), i.e. instead of having to go to a edit house like the old days? Man, has that changed things. I used to dread having to pull favors and cut corners and save up footage, updating the reel every few years. Now it's almost too easy. Thank you, FCP!
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#9 Mik Cribben

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Posted 24 July 2005 - 01:13 PM

Has there in the history of demo reels ever been a problem with fair us?
I suspect not.


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#10 thomas-english

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Posted 24 July 2005 - 02:04 PM

I think its all fine. Surely if the producer gave you permission, its then the production company thats at fault for authorising reproduction.

I cut mine at home... was once an editor at the bbc . The problem is you really need someone to butcher your reel for you savagely. Otherwise you just end up with shed loads of sentimental shots like on mine.

I think people just switch straight off after about a minute.
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#11 Mik Cribben

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Posted 24 July 2005 - 03:20 PM

Has anybody in the history of demo reels ever had a a problem using footage that they shot? I suspect not. What would be the motivation?

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#12 Afton Grant

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Posted 24 July 2005 - 03:43 PM

What would be the motivation?

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


Going back to the very beginning - it's copyright infringement. Unless you have complete reproductive permission for the footage AND soundtrack, it's unauthorized. However, I think we've already established that demo reels have never seemed to be a problem. Someone would have to be REALLY motivated to go after something so small. Some have pointed out that even if they did, the worst that would likely happen would be the issuing of a "cease and decist" notice.
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