View Full Version : Can I use Beethoven in my films?


Boxing Filmmaker
05-07-2010, 02:59 AM
Legally, would I not need copyrights to have Beethoven or any other composer music that was under a certain year in my films?

I heard something about this, but was never clarified.

Thanks.

Smurfy8797
05-07-2010, 04:08 AM
yes. you need rights to use it. you cant use it without permission

Dreadylocks
05-07-2010, 09:26 AM
Well, the music of Betthoven itself is in the public domain. The important thing is that the recordings of the music are most likely copyrighted.

I just suggested to another member that he just buy the sheet music for piano or string quartet if you must. Then go to a local college or university with a good arts program and offer one of their (good) students money or credit or whatever to record it and release the recording to you.

Musicians at the college level are used to getting some paying gigs so this is not going to seem out of the blue or anything.

sonnyboo
05-07-2010, 11:10 AM
Dreadylocks nailed it. For every piece of music used in a film, you need TWO permissions - the right to use the sheet music and the right to use the recording of the music. Most classical music over 100 years old is public domain and you don't have to pay for the sheet music permission, but you will always and forever need the recording rights.

Getting someone to perform the classical music is the easiest and best way to get it for your film.

Libby
05-07-2010, 01:36 PM
I had read that if the piece of music was written over 75 years ago - it public.

On that note I was told that Happy Birthday to you...written by the Hill sisters around or over 100 years ago was bought by Michael Jackson and that a fee must be paid to use that song.

I looked it up and saw nothing of a sort but did read that using that song requires payment as the copyright does not expire until 2030.

How could this be? If it was written over or around a hundred years ago - could someone have to pay royalties to use it today?

Dreadylocks
05-07-2010, 03:16 PM
@Libby: As I understand it (and I don't know about your specific example of Happy Birthday), if an estate or a foundation or a family member has kept the copyright renewed the whole time, then it's possible for it to still be in copyright.

For example there is a song I wanted to cover and make a short film out of (One Meatball). But it turns out that even though the song itself and even the original recording were made back in the 20's or 30's, there is someone out there holding the copyright. :(

2001 Productions
05-07-2010, 03:30 PM
Current law stipulates that copyright may be renewed for up to 70 years after the death of the creator. This is likely to be extended yet again when Mickey Mouse is threatened with public domain-hood, as that tends to be the impetus for copyright extension (I'm not making this up, BTW).

Here is a link about the Happy Birthday song:

http://www.snopes.com/music/songs/birthday.asp

Dreadylocks
05-07-2010, 07:07 PM
Current law stipulates that copyright may be renewed for up to 70 years after the death of the creator. This is likely to be extended yet again when Mickey Mouse is threatened with public domain-hood, as that tends to be the impetus for copyright extension (I'm not making this up, BTW).

Here is a link about the Happy Birthday song:

http://www.snopes.com/music/songs/birthday.asp

Please tell me we at least have 'For He's a Jolly Good Fellow'!

Libby
05-07-2010, 08:28 PM
Okay. So when making a movie and a birthday scene is shot - don't sing Happy B-day because you will get sued.
Somewhere I read that it will cost you $700 to use that song.

You will just have to place the cake on the table and make up some other song or fork over the bucks.

PositiveFuture
05-08-2010, 04:49 AM
Please tell me we at least have 'For He's a Jolly Good Fellow'!

Sorry, the copyright to that is owned by The Dick Cheney Foundation. You may not refer to anyone as a 'Jolly Good Fellow' either in prose or song, without their express prior written consent.

*

OP, there's plenty of Beethoven on Royalty Free Music sites, but the quality can be low.

sonnyboo
05-08-2010, 11:36 AM
Okay. So when making a movie and a birthday scene is shot - don't sing Happy B-day because you will get sued.
Somewhere I read that it will cost you $700 to use that song.

You will just have to place the cake on the table and make up some other song or fork over the bucks.

ASCAP and BMI, the publishing clearing houses are responsible for collecting revenue from broadcast and public performances of songs. Whenever a song is played on the radio or television, and even sung in concert - they collect a form of payment for that, then disburse to the publishing companies.

They caused quite a stir when they started suing restaurants for singing HAPPY BIRTHDAY, and in the mid 1990's all the food chains started creating their own birthday songs to avoid this. They even sued the Girl Scouts over not paying for KUMBAYA....

So, yes, you have to pay to use the song HAPPY BIRTHDAY in your movie, even if your actors sing it. The publishing rights are owned by someone and they want their money.

Dreadylocks
05-08-2010, 12:44 PM
What about just using the end. Like, cutting to the scene at the point right before the candles are blown out and we hear "Toooooo yooooouuuuu". Is that interval with those lyrics enough? What if it was just the last word?

Or how about cutting in on the tag line "And maaany mooooore" which is something a lot of folks stick at the end but I'm pretty sure is not actually a part of the original song....

2001 Productions
05-09-2010, 03:20 AM
What about just using the end. Like, cutting to the scene at the point right before the candles are blown out and we hear "Toooooo yooooouuuuu".

I did almost that exact thing in one of my plays. Guy answers the door to find his sister and her husband, who sing, "Happy birthday..."

And he slams the door in their faces.

There is a very specific part of copyright law that stipulates exactly how many notes of a tune you can replicate before it becomes a provable copyright violation.