21
September
2004

The price of free, according to copyright societies 17:22 on Tuesday

Yesterday I called Teosto to ask how can I make free music available online. I need a permission from Teosto because I have signed a customer agreement with them, giving them the sole authority to supervise the copyright in all of my works.

The copyright society thingy works like this: before any music is put online, Teosto should be contacted to obtain the right to use copyrighted material. When the music is used, Teosto collects royalties from all over the world by means of reciprocal agreements with other copyright societies and pays the copyright owners. The problem here is, Teosto can only grant rights for use in Finland.

What does this mean in practice? If I want to release something for free on the net and put it on a German site for download, I must contact the German copyright society and try to strike a deal with them to not collect royalties for this particular piece of music. You can imagine the logistical hassle in managing this information — you would need not only a database of all songs, but a database of every different recording, every download site, every possible use of those songs. And then multiply this difficulty by every country the music is available in. It seems at this point the only option is to cheat and release free music under a fake name that is not registered in Teosto.

I wonder if it really is this complicated in other countries as well.

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