Shop Member Center Document Center Virtual HU

Interactive Video Streaming: A Step-by-Step Process for Copyright

Interactive Video Streaming: A Step-by-Step Process for Copyright

DISCLAIMER: This article is for general informational purposes only, regarding the use of copyrighted musical compositions in the United States. It does not constitute rendered legal advice to or for anyone. Please contact an attorney should you need legal assistance. If you reside outside of the United States please contact your country’s copyright society(ies) for guidance on copyright.

Interactive Streaming is an "on-demand" stream of an audio or video track over the internet. It does not allow the listener/viewer to download the file to their device; the listener/viewer can only listen or view the audio or video recording at their request as many times as they wish. This differs from Live Streaming, which is the live broadcasting of video to an audience over the internet, usually a one-time broadcast event.

This article will focus on interactive streaming only.

Regarding interactive streams of video performances, there are generally three steps involved:

1. Selecting your arrangement and ensuring your sheet music is legal for your group’s use for rehearsal and/or inclusion in the video.

2. Securing a synchronization license from the copyright holder(s) in the song/arrangement.

3. Ensure public performance permissions are in place for the social media platform you wish to use for your video upload and broadcast.

To prevent extra expense and also disappointment, all permissions should be in place for your interactive stream before you begin rehearsals with your group.

STEP 1: SELECT YOUR ARRANGEMENT AND ENSURE YOUR SHEET MUSIC IS LEGAL FOR YOUR GROUP’s use

Before you begin rehearsals with your group, make sure you have legal copies of the sheet music arrangement secured (one legal copy per singer).

Published Arrangements (sold at retail) – one purchased copy is required for each singer. If you only have physical (printed) copies of the arrangement and you need to send your singers an additional digital copy, contact the copyright holder to secure permissions to do this. (Physical Print and Digital Print are two separate permissions under copyright.)

  • If digital copies are not already available for retail sale, the copyright holder of the song or an agency like Tresona Music should be able to assist you with securing permission to distribute digital copies to your group.
  • If you are planning to use a barbershop-style arrangement, the Barbershop Harmony Society may be able to assist you with permission– inquire at library@barbershop.org.

Custom (Unpublished Arrangements - not sold at retail) – one legalized copy is required for each singer. If the arrangement has not been legalized for your group yet – or if you have only cleared physical (printed) copies of the arrangement previously and you need to send your singers an additional digital copy, contact the copyright holder to secure permissions to do this. (Physical Print and Digital Print are two separate permissions under copyright.)

  • If digital copies are not already available for retail sale, the copyright holder of the song or an agency like Tresona Music should be able to assist you with securing permission to distribute digital copies to your group.
  • If you are planning to use a barbershop-style arrangement, the Barbershop Harmony Society may be able to assist you with permission– inquire at library@barbershop.org.

step 2: REQUEST AND (HOPEFULLY) SECURE A SYNCHRONIZATION LICENSE FROM THE COPYRIGHT HOLDER(S) IN THE SONG

After you've selected and confirmed legality of the song arrangement (and copies) your group will use for rehearsal and/or performance in your video, you must now contact the copyright holder(s) of the original song to secure permission to include the song performance in your video and upload to social media for interactive streaming. This permission is called a synchronization license.

A synchronization license (also known as “synchronization rights,” “synch rights,” or and “sync rights”) is an agreement between a music user and a copyright holder that grants permission for a user to “sync” audio with video of their song.

Copyright holder information is typically located at the bottom of the first page of your sheet music arrangement (or your license agreement, if you have secured a permission for a custom/unpublished arrangement).

If there is no address or phone number listed the following website resources may prove helpful:

  • ASCAP - American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers
  • BMI - Broadcast Music, Inc.
  • SESAC - (formerly Society of European Stage Authors and Composers)
  • GMR - Global Music Rights

Copyright holder information can be found by searching by song title and/or composer through each site’s repertory catalog.

General Search: If the song cannot be located with any of the above organizations, the U.S. Copyright Office, the Harry Fox Agency, or a general internet search may prove helpful.

Contacting the Copyright Holder(s)

Unfortunately there are no official US “clearinghouses” available to easily secure synchronization licenses; however, independent entities offering these services may be located by an internet search using key phrases such as “synchronization license services” or “synchronization clearance services.”

If you cannot locate an agency to assist, you must then contact the copyright holder(s) directly with your permission request.

It is helpful when contacting the copyright holder that you provide as much information as you can regarding the song and the permission you need, such as the following:

  • song title;
  • composer(s) (first & last names);
  • the full copyright notice on your sheet music; include arranger’s name if available;
  • the name of your ensemble and the director’s name;
  • ensemble/organization’s official mailing address, phone number, and email address;
  • the type of use you are requesting – this is typically interactive (on demand streaming), a visual vocal, and the full use of the song; and
  • the social media platform you plan to use to upload and share your video.

You will most likely not receive an immediate response from the copyright holder due to the large volume of requests they receive every day. So it is important that you plan accordingly. Some copyright holders offer an online portal to secure a license easily with a credit card. They will advise you if this is available, or you may locate the portal from an internet search.

If the copyright holder controls less than 100% of the song, you are required to request synchronization licenses from the remaining copyright holders. If you cannot secure 100% permission, you cannot move forward with that song for your video.

A copyright holder has the authority to deny your request. This is why it’s critical that your permissions are completed before you begin work on your rehearsals and video recording. If your request is approved the copyright holder may quote you a fee to be paid for the permission. Make sure you understand the terms of their agreement. Seek the assistance of an attorney, if needed, before you sign. You do have the right to refuse the permission; however, when doing so, you are not allowed to create or use your video.

Please be advised that any use of a copyrighted composition without formal permission is a violation of copyright law. Violations could result in a substantial fine to you and your group/organization.

step 3: ENSURE PUBLIC PERFORMANCE RIGHTS ARE IN PLACE FOR THE SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORM YOU PLAN TO USE

The third step is to ensure public performance rights are in place for the social media platform you plan to use for your video.

A public performance license (also known as public performance rights, performance rights, and performing rights) is an agreement between a music user and the owner of a copyrighted composition (song), which grants permission to play the song in public, online, or on the radio.

Are you planning to stream on one of the major social media platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, or TikTok?

If you answered yes, for the public performance permission you are mostly likely already covered under their agreements with ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, and Global Music Rights (GMR) (as of this writing). However, it’s always a good idea to ask the copyright holder when securing your synchronization license if a separate public performance permission is required from them. In most cases this will not be required due to the blanket agreements already in place with the social media platform you want to use.

If your group is using a different social media platform than what is listed above it is recommended that you contact ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, and GMR to make sure the platform has licensed with them. Also, if you are originating your video from your group’s own dedicated website you will be required to secure a public performance license from these organizations, depending on where the song is registered. The copyright holder can give you this information.

Once you have all of your required permissions in place you can then move forward with your project. Please ensure your video upload includes any copyright/permission notices required by the copyright holder(s). Typically this information is added to your video content and/or placed in the comments with the post.

About the Author

Janice Bane is Copyright & Licensing Manager for the Barbershop Harmony Society, where she oversees all perfection of rights, music clearances, and royalty operations for the organization’s media publishing division.

Her background includes 30 years of experience in music publishing and copyright administration, and she currently serves on the board of directors for The Copyright Society of the South.