Creativity vs. Copyright

I am about to get a schooling in copyright and licensing law from a giant corporation.

Back in November, I found the spot on the CBS Web site where one requests permission to use their intellectual property in one’s own work. (I’d link it for you, but darn if I can find it again.) Specifically, I wanted to use one frame from the Star Trek episode “The Cage” as part of the album cover for my EP, The Women!

When I didn’t hear back from them a month later – my self-imposed deadline for releasing the EP – I figured, screw it, I’m much too small-time for them to care. I wasn’t selling the album, and the argument could be made that the clumsy image editing I did to the shot made the cover a fair use “derivative work” anyway. I’m not quite sure the argument would fly, mind you, but it could be made.

Then on March 28, I received an e-mail from the Licensing Manager at CBS Consumer Products Inc. Here’s what she said.

Hi John,

I received your licensing inquiry from the CBS Consumer Products web site.

Please reach out to me directly to discuss this opportunity in more detail.

Helpful, no? Whatever. Approximately nine people have downloaded the album since November, so a per-unit licensing deal would net them less than the manager’s time to type two sentences costs. A blanket licensing deal would likely bankrupt me.

But today I wrote her back. Under the theory that music gets more exposure when you ask folks to pay for it, I’m putting it on iTunes and Spotify and the like soon. Either I get the right licensing in place or I change the cover somehow.

Now, granted, a good portion of the Internet economy runs on blatant copyright infringement. The Star Trek Facebook page frequently links to fan-made stuff and says, “Hey, cool!” with no mention of impending legal action. And the old saying does go, “Better to ask forgiveness than permission.” But old sayings are no more true than new ones, and “forgiveness” in this case might be “thousands in punitive royalties.” So I’ll go the safe route here.

One Response to Creativity vs. Copyright

  1. Pingback: » The Women! Uncaged '| John "jaQ" Andrews

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