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TV shows, music cuts, what about titles theme music? Star Trek, M:I, etc
15 replies to this topic
Posted December 06 2008 - 04:37 AM
My friend had an interesting theory about the music rights of TV shows while we were discussing the music cuts from The Odd Couple series on DVD. The topic changed to the remastered Star Trek and that one reason he theorized they re-recorded the famous title music was to avoid paying royalties for the remastered Star Trek TOS DVD's. I was surprised he had that idea. The series was remastered to celebrate the 40th Anniversary with improved image in HD for posterity and the music was an added feature so they could get an improved digital recording in stereo. (How successful the recreation is, is for another thread!) At the time, there was no mention the remastered series would go to a hi-definition format DVD, though I'm sure it was in their minds. So the theory is, if I understand it, is that CBS or Paramount would still have to pay rights to someone for that original titles music. Gene Roddenberry or his estate get's a piece, Alexander Courage's estate get's a piece and perhaps the musicians or union got a piece. That made sense when the series first aired in the sixties when everyone got a small payment for each repeat. But since then, my understanding is that was it. So my friend theorizes the music was re-recorded with a hired staff of musicians and the soprano for a one time deal, one time payment, so that CBS owned that recording outright and could use it anyway they wanted. I figured Paramount outright own it all anyway when they first produced Star Trek, and now CBS owns the series. And as such, all elements that were created for the series is owned by them including the music created for the series. Is that right? Or does the composer or a musical entity like ASCAP still own the rights? A musician union thing? I wondered if there are still royalties to be paid to someone to this day for a series titles music when it goes to DVD. If so, then shows like Mission: Impossible, The Twilight Zone and Hawaii Five-O would have the same issues. But he figured that these shows and Star Trek and others have such iconic themes, they couldn't get away with changing the music. His theory stems from the evidence that TV shows that are less popular like My Three Sons have had wholesale changes to the music. I don't have that show on DVD, but I still remember the titles music, so that's an obscene change! That change was solely to save the cost of the music rights? A popular modern day show like CSI has a song by the Who for the titles. That probably costs a lot, but CSI is so popular, it's another example of where they had to pay for the rights or they'd be hearing from the fans. But that's a different situation where the music wasn't wholly done for the show. Also, The TOS Star Trek series remastered DVD sets no longer costs $100 a season, its less. But how the music cost could affect it is unknown. If as all. Anyway, thoughts?
Posted December 06 2008 - 05:17 AM
you never stop paying for the music. That's why Roddenberry wrote bogus lyrics for the Star Trek theme - he got paid half the publishing royalty even when it's an instrumental. That's also why when certain TV shows are considered PD, the PD DVD folks snip the theme songs (like the Beverly Hillbillies).
Posted December 06 2008 - 07:02 AM
??? If you own the rights to something and someone else wants to use it, you can charge them for the privilage, regardless of how "iconic" it is. Your friend would do better to spend his time researching this stuff on Google rather than just spinning out theories in a vacuum.
Posted December 06 2008 - 07:25 AM
Thanks for the extended reply Joseph! That's how I understood the music rights situation to be for TV shows on DVD, though I still don't fully understand all the nuances. With regards to Star Trek, my understanding was that the theme was re-recorded for a higher fidelity recording that replicated the original exactly. (Though I and others think they failed in some respects) Since they had this beautiful restore live action footage, they wanted the titles music with brand new CGI effects to be as good. As for my friend, it was a simple off-the cuff comment that got me curious about it. It had some interesting aspects to it that had a germ of possibility. And when he commented that My Three Son's had much music replaced, it sort of seemed possible. But I don't know the My Three Son's situation. On the whole, the theme music and score created for a TV show to me, seemed to be a wholly owned entity by the studio that created, so there is no rights issues if they still own the property. And yes, Gene Roddenberry did write bogus lyrics to the Star Trek theme to make a couple bucks. He's admitted to it.
Posted December 06 2008 - 09:38 AM
But Congress keeps extending that copyright so it sticks around longer. I did have a composer buddy who was approached by the producer of a Nightline who wanted him to "rewrite" the theme just enough so it sounded the same, but he would be considered the composer. The producer was having a feud with the original theme composer and was sick of paying him. The pal backed off the assignment for fear of spending more time in lawyer offices than scoring stages.
Posted December 07 2008 - 01:43 AM
It gets even more complicated when you consider countries in the European Union. Recordings are only covered by copyright for 50 years in these countries. The song itself is still covered but the recording of say the 1946 version of Nat King Cole singing "The Christmas Song" is in public domain in those countries (not the US). This means that anyone can release a copy of the recording of Nat King Cole's 1946 version of The Christmas Song on CD without paying the estate or Capital/EMI . However since the song itself is still under copyright the recording can't be used in a TV show, on radio, or in a movie without permission. If the law is not changed you will soon see early Beatles songs put out by unknown companies. It has already happened with older Elvis recordings. This is why if you go to a place like Virgin Mega Store you will see cheap imports of older recordings from people like Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, etc. Even though the recordings are under copyright in the US, it doesn't seem to be enforced and record stores still sell these imports. While many people will think that this great and they will be able to get music for cheap, presumably these public domain companies don't have access to the master tapes so the quality of the recordings will be poor. The same is true of public domain copies of TV shows such as The Lucy Show.
Posted December 07 2008 - 04:13 AM
The EU is trying to push the performance copyright to 95 years. The thing is that the music publishing is still lifetime of the author plus 70 years. So even if the recording is in the EU Public Domain listing, you still have to deal with the publishing house to release the tune. That's how they get ya!
Posted December 07 2008 - 04:32 PM
But there are rights and there are royalties, and it's important not to confuse the two. Yes, a studio has to pay a royalty (or "residual") to the composer of a piece of music, just as they have to pay the actors, writers, and directors for each airing/release. But the studio forever retains the RIGHTS to that music and that performance of the music (just as they do to the script, shots, acting performances, etc.). But when they've bought a pre-existing piece of music, whether an original recording or just a use of the music, they might have bought the rights to it in any number of ways (depending on cost, availability, and assumptions of future use at the time). Shows run into trouble for DVD release when the rights purchased at the time don't cover DVD release (which is generally the case). The music may have been purchased for broadcast only, or for North America only, or for a certain period only. The only music rights that are sufficient for international DVD distribution would be worldwide rights for all media in perpetuity… which is generally expensive and unlikely. So when Paramount wants to release "The Odd Couple," and in it Felix sings some pre-existing song, they have to renegotiate for those rights. And that can be very expensive. What is not expensive is the re-use of the "Odd Couple" theme music. That, Paramount owns. And yes, they had to pay the late Neal Hefti a residual for its use, which of course they'd prefer not to, but that's a cost of doing business and nothing like having to renegotiate for its use. Rerecording the "Star Trek" theme would not, in fact, likely save any money. As has been pointed out, the also late Alexander Courage and "lyricist" Gene Roddenberry had to be paid for the composition, regardless of the new recording. I don't believe the musicians who performed it originally are entitled to a residual for its reuse (they are when a score is used for a different purpose, such as a soundtrack CD). And reconstructing it and rerecording it is hardly free. I believe Paramount did it for better sound, and also for promotional value (the rerecording got some mention on at least one of the entertainment shows).
Posted December 08 2008 - 04:59 AM
Actually, you're wrong. The studio does not own the rights to that music, despite what you want to believe. If someone creates a piece of music for a television show, it doesn't matter if that person was in the employ of that studio or not, unless that person signed over his or her copyrights to that piece of music, that author of that song still retains the copyrights to that music and that it can't be used without that person's permission. Trust me, anyone who has created a piece of music for a television shows of the potential of money to be made if that show hits DVD and artists aren't likely to sign over the rights to their songs like that. With new shows, studios often pay an undisclosed sum of money for the rights to use that music once the show is released to DVD, but that they have a limited window to which they then have to start paying the recording artist for that music.
Posted December 08 2008 - 05:37 AM
IMRO | Music Makers
The Music Bridge :: "All Clear" - Music Clearance Primer
In the case of original scores, the majority of composers DO seem to cede their publishing and reuse rights to the studio employing them. Although they are guaranteed appropriate royalties for the music when it is reused or reissued in any form, the composer does not retain the right to negotiate new terms for each use and certainly has no right to deny further use. There are probably a few exceptions to this rule, but week-to-week composers at Desilu/Paramount in the late '60s would not be among them.
Posted December 08 2008 - 07:07 AM
No, I'm not. The studios simply do not hire composers -- any composers -- who do not cede publishing rights to them. Never. It's in the contract. Trust me. The only composer I understand ever kept some rights to his own music was Henry Mancini, who early on was forward-thinking enough to keep rights to music nobody thought valuable, and later on had enough clout to demand it. But even Mancini only had the rights to release his music. He could not hold, say, "Peter Gunn"'s music for ransom any time the studio wanted to issue the series. If studios had to renegotiate for the rights to original scores commissioned for their films and television shows, trust me, those scores would be replaced on a weekly basis. It is only pre-existing music purchased for use that must often be renegotiated later. (In a couple of cases, oddly, the opposite problem has come up. There was a John Wayne movie released on video a decade or so ago where the movie had fallen (by error) into the public domain, but the rights to the score were still owned by the studio. So the cheapie distributor who was producing the PD version of the movie had to rescore it with some guy with a synth!)
Posted December 08 2008 - 10:42 AM
Mike, the only way that would happen if they were works for hire and composing music is not works for hire. Composers actually do own the music they write and create.
Posted December 08 2008 - 11:00 AM
I'd be willing to read any source you have for saying that most composers own the music that they compose for a studio's TV show. Maybe there's a couple of times that it's happened but it certainly isn't the norm.
Posted December 08 2008 - 12:08 PM
The links in my post above describe the compositions exactly as works for hire. Except for some rare Manciniesque cases, the composer gives up all rights to the music except for a pre-arranged royalty schedule. Also, that schedule was subject to the time period. The Archive of American Television has interviewed several of the Star Trek composers (interviews available online) and they say their royalties stopped years ago, just like the actors and everyone else who didn't own a piece of the show. The only way they get money now is if the compositions are recorded or played in a new context.
Posted December 08 2008 - 03:25 PM
Mark, I'm really not sure what you're talking about. Composing music for a television series is absolutely work for hire. Just to be clear, I'm not talking about pre-existing music licensed for work on a series, I'm talking about music composed specifically for a show. For hire. In the case that started this discussion, Alexander Courage was hired to compose a score for "Star Trek." This is the definition of work for hire. (By the way, the same holds true of a script written for television. When a writer signs his contract for that script or series, he cedes future rights to it to the production company. He no longer owns that work.)
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