Personal and helpful thoughts of David Ferguson and
posted in the TRDEV list at various times:

Rick Winter asks if anyone on the list has explained how to get permissions, or how much royalties are, or where to send the money.

The short answers:


They vary.

It depends.


The long answers:


There's no one way to get permission. If what you want to do is perform certain works in public (e.g., play those CDs), and if the owner of a work is registered with ASCAP, you try ASCAP. BMI, you try BMI. How do you know? Both have search engines on their websites (, Don't ask about CDs recorded and purchased in, say, Australia or the Czech Republic.

Note that these organizations are licensing the right to perform a work. (Restaurants and conference centers, for example, get licenses for this type of performance.) If you want to use sound recordings in combination with other media (e.g., CBT, multimedia, slide/sound combinations), you probably need synchronization rights, like those available from the Harry Fox Agency (, an agent of the National Music Publishers Association (

Of course, not every copyrighted work is necessarily represented by ASCAP, BMI, Harry Fox, or NMPA. There's no requirement that the copyright owner make it EASY.

Similarly, if you want to use what I'll call "consumer" videos (meaning the ones you can rent or buy at the video store), you can only show them in the privacy of your home, for family and friends. Other uses require a license, most likely from the Motion Picture Licensing Corporation (

Whether you can use "industry" videos intended for the training and development field (videos you buy from various training vendors) depends on the terms of the license.

If you want to hand out photocopies or reprints of things like magazine articles or excerpts from books, you're on your own permission-wise. No one answer here, either, which is why colleges and universities often have a "permissions" or "clearances" person with a large telephone budget.

And on it goes...


From the previous section, you may be getting the idea that the royalties required will vary on the circumstances: your purpose, your audience, and the desire of the copyright owner.


If you have the answers to the other two questions, this one is easy.


A question not asked: "Why is this stuff so complicated?"

An answer: it's the way the law works. Various forces in the intellectual-property arena have conflicting desires. That's why there are intellectual-property lawyers...and that's also why there are the "music police" who travel to various venues (including trading and industry conferences) to see whether the rights of copyright owners are being violated.

Here endeth the lesson for today.

compliments of Dave Ferguson

Anne Thornley-Brown suggested contacting the public television network to obtain rights to use some video material. Good idea. This of course assumes the network HAS the right to the material. In general, that would be material produced by that network. The network may, of course, be able to refer you to the copyright owner...but it can be a tiresome pursuit. Copyright law is complex, and it's not always easy to determine who owns the copyright.

The first source to try (for movies and video) is:

Motion Picture Licensing Corporation
5455 Centinela Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90066-6970

TEL: (800) 462-8855, (310) 822-8855
FAX: (310) 822-4440


You'd start with them, to see if they represent the studio that released the movie. MPLC sells licenses. For example, you could get a blanket license to cover showing of films within your company. They have an online form on which you can describe your proposed use and receive a quote for the license.

Thornley-Brown mentions SOCAN as a source for getting rights to music. My hunch is that she mean rights to use the LYRICS (e.g., to quote them). Equivalent organizations are ASCAP ( and BMI (

If you want to use actual music (say, in your multimedia training, or in synchronizing with the slides in a presentation), you need what are known as mechanical rights. First source for those, in the U. S., is the Harry Fox Agency ( The fact that you own a CD, for example, does not mean that you have the right to perform the work in public (e.g., play it for your training session).

And then there's the Copyright Clearance Center (, for getting clearance to reproduce things like magazine articles.

And, yes, if you're wondering, you DO need permission to do things like show Dilbert cartoons in your training sessions. If Scott Adams dropped dead tomorrow, the cartoon he drew yesterday would be protected until the year 2068.

Be very cautious in using any illustration or other work that was produced by someone else - the penalties can be quite significant!

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