Friday, September 23, 2016

What is the DMCA and what does it have to do with the Scott Firefighter Combat Challenge®

First, this definition and then the implications:

From Wikipedia:
The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is a United States copyright law that implements two 1996 treaties of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). It criminalizes production and dissemination of technology, devices, or services intended to circumvent measures (commonly known as digital rights management or DRM) that control access to copyrighted works.

Virtually everything that you hear on broadcast radio and TV is copyrighted, meaning that someone is paying for the privilege of playing the song. It’s estimated that there are over 2M copyrighted songs, the broadcast rights of which are owned by ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC. You’ll notice at the end of every TV show or cinema, the credits roll. The songs, performing artists and composers are listed- and paid for their contributions.

Any licensed music that we play at a public event comes with a cost, based on the size of the audience. For decades, we’ve been paying ASCAP a fee for every show. We don’t know for certain who owns the rights to every song since currently, our playlist comes from Pandora. This introduces another level of complexity since there’s another set of rules and another organization that’s involved in collecting royalties for this channel as well as SiriusXM.

And here’s where it gets very complicated. When we upload a live feed to Facebook or post video content to YouTube, there’s a legal exposure for us as well as these two web content providers. It is a criminal act to play licensed music and not pay for it.

Some years back Viacom sued YouTube over uploaded copyrighted content. The practical reality is that computer algorithms were created to match music with known copyrighted music resulting in the audio tracks being taken down. You may have noticed that this has been a recurring phenomena for the last several years. Almost as fast as we upload content, the audio is stripped off of the video. And, this does not just happen to us; many friends and family members video, upload and then have either the soundtrack or the video taken down.

Even though we have a license to play a song, it does not extend the right to broadcast in another media. When we are on ESPN, this presents problems since it’s virtually the same issue. Plus, there’s no phone number you can call and explain the situation even if you have a license to play a particular song.

When your audience is small, your risk of discovery is small. But when you start attracting larger and larger numbers, as our Feature Races have, the risk goes up rapidly. The fines can become huge. We’ve had several live feeds that exceeded 150,000 viewers and our Guns and Hoses video went over 680,000. These are numbers that sponsors like to see. And, without sponsors, there is no show.

Recently, just up the road from our office, a Howard County high school choir was performing Christmas music at the Columbia Mall. Coincidently, ASCAP’s headquarters are also in Columbia and one of their employees asked to see the sheet music. It was discovered that they had not purchased the rights for public performance of copyrighted material and were fined. Can you believe it?

I may not like or agree that the posted speed limit is 55MPH. And, I may choose to ignore the speed limit. But, in all likelihood, there are consequences.

So, what to do?

There are gigabytes of music that can be purchased where the rights to play convey with the purchase. We have started to assemble a playlist that will remove the exposure to being criminally fined and avoid sound tracks being taken down. This is not an overnight solution. Music is in the ear of the beholder and we’ve never been able to please everyone’s penchant for exactly their personal taste. But, we are diligently working on a solution to build out a playlist that will make us immune to prosecution and keep our audio tracks on our uploads.

How About This Idea?

There must be scores of firefighters who are members of garage bands. What if our entire soundtrack was composed by firefighters and played by firefighters. How cool would that be? And how about a contest for a Scott Firefighter Combat Challenge theme song?

We're going to reach out to the fire service community for expressions of interest in having a platform for their music being played in a public place. Stay tuned.

1 comment:

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