As I’ve said a number of times before, copyright is such a complex subject it can make your head spin. Yet, as we delve more in to digital technology, I do think that it is important that we become more and more familiar with it.. Our privacy is slowly slipping away with technology; large Internet services like Yahoo and Google are now requiring a telephone number to setup accounts/or activate certain features. We can’t even purchase a cellphone with a decent plan, unless we provide our SS# number (if not, our only option is an expensive prepaid plan). IP addresses are being made available more easily. Having said this, as bloggers we need to become more aware of copyrights, because it will not take much for an upset copyright holder to find you. However, in this article, I’m focusing more on legal streaming and downloads.

First off, what is a “license,” or “licensing fees?”  Well, despite what a lot of people assume, a license fee is NOT a judgement, but a cost set by the copyright holder for the privilege of using their copyrighted work. This is how an artist makes money. However, a license is also a contract; that contract states all the things you can and cannot do with a copyright holder’s work. Although there may be some similarities, each contract is unique to each agreement. There also maybe multiple agreements/tiers, or unique contracts based on the nature of the business that wants to use the work.


So for instance, Hulu has different license for each individual movies they stream. There are some movie titles with licenses that only allows the user to view on their computer, but NOT on their smartphone, or Roku box. This usually means that the copyright holder charges significantly more, and Hulu only opted for the computer license instead. Some license agreements limit the quality of movie; so a new movie may only be available in Standard Definition, because the copyright holder’s license calls for more money for High Definition. Some services like Xfinity  has licenses that allows users to download movies. However, the license costs more for Xfinity, thus making their monthly costs to the user higher, for the privilege of having this feature. Licenses even dictate the theme song you hear! WTFDIM? What The F**k Do I Mean? Well, a good example is my favorite TV show “Married With Children (1987-1997).” If you watch the show from Crackle, you’ll quickly notice that you don’t hear original singer to it’s theme song which is “Frank Sanatra (O’l Blue Eyes)” on the intro. The intro played on Crackle is instrumental. In fact, even the instrumental music isn’t exact from the original, because you need a license to hear Frank’s voice, and or both original musical composition. A second example is a show called Baratta (1975-1978). The original singer to it’s intro is Sammy Davis Jr. But because the license cost too much to have Sammy on the DVDs, they used a much lesser known singer instead for the intro (theme song). Sh*t, I even had trouble finding it on YouTube. They had that on lock-down (almost).

Music works in the same way. Some licenses allow unlimited skips; some allow only 6 skips per station; some only allow 6 skips per 24 hour period.. Some licenses stipulate bandwidth limits, and some the amount of songs you can download. Because free services like iHeart radio pays so much license fees, your  skips are limited, and ads are present to help pay for the cost of licensing. So as much as we all hate it, ads play a very important role as to why some of the services you’re using are free for you to use, and legal. Embrace the ads and welcome them. However, if you’re really tired of the ads, then you’ll have to pay a very inexpensive premium of $10 a month to remove all ads, unlock additional features, and more music. For some music services, if you pay for a year in advance, they’ll usually give you about 2 months free.


Disc rentals are also under license, and companies like Netflix pay royalties to the copyright owners as well. One Blu-Ray disc cost anywhere from about $20-$35 on average in a retail store (a movie you may or may not like, a movie you will more than likely only watch twice in your life on average, and possibly a third time with a friend); for $20 a month you can rent 3 Blu-Ray movies at a time, and return them whenever you want using Netflix. You can literally rent 16 Blu-Rays/DVDs a month (the average shipping time is 3-4 days), for the price you pay for one disc retail. That’s anywhere from $320 – $560 you save per month by renting from Netflix (for 16 discs). You’re mailed the original retail discs, no additional shipping costs, no late fees, rarely do you experience long waits (if a movie is not available, they usually try to get it from another location, otherwise they will send you the next movie on your queue), no incompatibilities, no poor quality, just about every type of American movie (and an unbelievable section of foreign movies), access to hard to find and special interest films. Just pop it in, play and enjoy! Netflix even has plans that are even cheaper. For $5 a month, you can rent two discs a month! If you can’t see the benefits of these services, something is definitely wrong with you.

If you would like to have more general information about how royalties work, try this article called “How Music Royalties Work.” The article does not talk about royalties for streaming in detail, but it will give you a clearer understanding of the basics and how digital royalties work. Please remember that every license agreement will be different, depending on the nature of the business, business category, features offered, and other circumstances, etc (which all ties in to how much a streaming service charges its members).


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  6. Before The Music Dies (2007)