Digital Karaoke, Copyrights, and the Disc Manufacturers

January 29, 2009 by Eric Godfrey

My last post had a response from Bill Smith who stated,

“SoundChoice and Chartbuster came out and stated that they have no problems with a one for one copy of a legally purchased disc, I think I would be moved to initiate that. I also believe it would clear the air one and for all.”

Bill said he was looking for some clarity.

Let me explain the problem a step farther. Stellar Records (Pop Hits), Chartbuster, and SoundChoice have all been sued repeatedly (and some still have pending lawsuits) by various music publishers. Since they are the only pockets deep enough to go after they keep getting hit. The problem is that Karaoke has never been specifically addressed. There is a rule allowing anyone to put out a remake of a song and sell it. The section of the law defines a procedure for what is called “compulsories”. In the early days all the Karaoke companies (the ones trying to be legal) were paying these fees and registering their songs. However, since CDG’s combined active graphics the publishers pointed to a section of the Copyright law stating that it was combining the music and a visual production and thus did not qualify as a “phonograph” recording and compulsories did not apply…? This was the beginning of the end of many Karaoke disc companies. They now must get a compulsory license and for lack of a better term a “Karaoke sync” license. They must get every writer, composer, performer and publisher to agree to allow the track and after that negotiate a contract with each one prior to releasing the track.

The problem is this. SoundChoice, Chartbuster, Stellar etc, get the license and it is defined as for use on the particular Karaoke CDG and it has an expiration date. It is not in the scope of their license to tell you that you can make a copy of the disc in digital format. If they say you can do so, they open themselves up to more lawsuits. There is a great deal of disagreement among the remaining companies as to how this needs to be handled, but the bottom line is they all understand technology and acknowledge that digital copies are going to happen.. They have agreed that as long as you have 1 for 1 copies of the original for every show you do that they will not pursue any course of action. This is the same as with DJ’s using digital tracks and what the RIAA has stated.

After years of very intense discussion and quite a bit of animosity I was able to get Bill Becker, current General Manager of Sound Choice to release this press release:  Bill and Sound Choice have been more than reasonable to deal with of late and they are trying to move forward proactively.

However, they can not state it is okay to go digital as it would put them in legal jeopardy, but they have stated that if you have one for one copies for every set of gear that they will not come after you.

So the answer is once again, that we all live in the gray area as digital DJ’s always have and that until it is addressed SPECIFICALLY, there is no hard and set rule. SoundChoice has discussed it with me and the USKA can act as an intermediary for a KJ member and negotiate a way to pay for license certificates for digital content that you do not have discs to support. We have spoken to Chartbuster and Stellar and they are both working on similar programs, but theirs’ are not in place yet.

If we can get even a small portion of the people to pay to make their illegal copies legal this will create a revenue stream for the disc manufacturers and help them to survive and hopefully as we police our own industry we can bust a few people and create awareness that gets the ball rolling.

See for more info on all of this.

Eric Godfrey Eric Godfrey (14 Posts)

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