Question of the day

From longtime friend of avery, RK:

I am curious about the status of the recording rights of this [Rambo] “homegoing” celebration. Were the artists aware that their performances would be commercially marketed/sold? If so, did they sign away the recording rights or are they being paid a royalty? And were they paid an appearance fee to perform?

Putting aside the appropriateness of marketing a funeral DVD (a topic that has been beaten to death a few times on previous posts, no pun intended), I hope this spectacle doesn’t deteriorate into a flurry of lawsuits by record labels and talent agents. But understanding the sorry state of affairs when it comes to paying southern gospel royalties, I know anything is possible.

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  1. Leebob wrote:

    I guess anything for a buck, huh?

  2. 1 old fan wrote:

    I don’t think there’s much chance of a lawsuit from record labels and talent agents. Maybe a “cease & desist” letter or two. Most of the sg labels don’t worry about permissions on other sg projects. Notice the lack of permission info on Homecome videos, except when there’s a mainstream artist involved.

    It’s the song publisher (now a part of SonyBMG) I would be concerned about. However, this is probably small potatoes to them, compared to a lot of other things, like radio stations refusing to pay ASCAP’s, etc. They would probably settle for payment and a promise to stop selling, which shouldn’t be too harmful to the selling culprits, given the minute size of the market involved. How many dvd’s would you suspect they’ve actually sold? 40? 50? I’m sure it’s not a number that would show up on a Billboard chart, had they gone through SoundScan stores.

    I’m hoping there are not THOUSANDS of people tacky enough to buy this thing.

  3. Stan Donnell wrote:

    I don’t see why this would be an issue, seeing as all the songs sung were Dottie’s, and the artists, Gaither and all, volunteered their time and were more considered guests than performers.

    Kind of like Aunt Caroline singing ‘Amazing Grace’ at Papaw’s funeral. If someone taped it and tried to sell it, would Aunt Caroline have any grounds to fight for a lawsuit?

  4. Dan wrote:

    1OldFan wrote:
    “Notice the lack of permission info on Homecome videos, except when there’s a mainstream artist involved.”

    Rest assured that every artist on a Gaither production signs a detailed contract permitting them unlimited use of their likeness.

    And, even if all the songs were “all Dottie’s”- the publishing royalties, no matter how small should be paid if the product is sold. Nickels and dimes pay bills the same as paper money!

  5. CVH wrote:

    I would think/hope, even given the nature of the event, that anyone performing would have known that the service was being recorded (audio and video) and whether or not it was for commercial distribution and sale.

    Same with the people that organized the service. They were undoubtably using copyrighted material (unless any PD tunes were done) and again, even if as a formality, performance/mechanical rights would have to be waived.

    On the other hand, those who participated may have decided, given the tragic nature of her death, that any royalties that would otherwise be due would be waived. And given the (likely) small quantity that would be sold, it would probably be more trouble for a publishing house to pursue than what it would be worth.

    And Aunt Caroline would only have grounds against the producer and distributor if she had an agreement in place guaranteeing her a standard royalty or a percentage of sales for the rights to use her performance as part of the project. Of course, if she didn’t, she’d be pretty stupid. Which brings up back to the start of this thread. How professional are all these people when it comes to legal matters anyway?

  6. cdguy wrote:

    Stan — yes, Aunt Caroline would be appropriate to be paid for her likeness and/or voice being used on a product that was being sold. Would Aunt Caroline sue? Probably not, because Aunt Caroline is sweet lady who would never consider suing anybody for anything. But the artists involved are professionals, who rely on their voices for their livelihoods.

    Was the pastor paid for performing the service? Of course. Was the mortician paid for his services? Naturally. Why would you not expect to pay singers and musicians for their work?

    And just because they did the SERVICE free gratis, out of love for Dottie, that gives no one the automatic right to use their voices and/or likenesses for commercial purposes.

    Now, we are assuming here that permission was not granted. We don’t really know that to be the case. But in truth, our speculation is probably correct. But speculation, none the less.

    As for song ownership, unless I’ve missed news of a transfer of publishing rights, Dottie doesn’t own her songs. For most (if not all) of her career, she was a writer for John T Benson Publishing Company (and whoever bought that company — which has happened several times). If you look at her recordings, songs in sheetmusic/songbooks, etc., you’ll see the Benson name on most (if not all) of the copyright notices. So, permission is not necessarily free, nor automatic. Most Christian publishers have reciprical agreements (in writing) amongst themselves, but this dvd doesn’t appear to have been done through one of the standard labels. So the natural assumption would be, since this has transpired so quickly, that those agreements may not be in place.

    Hope this makes sense.

  7. quartet-man wrote:

    I don’t know this at all, but a possibility might be that since they are done I believe as a donation, it is not considered selling, but more like a “love gift.” I’m not saying that makes it right per se. Another possibility is that if the songs are part of CCLI, with the license fee paid, you can also record songs on DVD’s if you don’t sell them for more than $15, the mechanicals (I believe) are covered. I would have to check, I saw that once in the CCLI paperwork or site.

  8. Leebob wrote:

    There are groups out there that will record one or two songs and offer them to the public “free” but will accept “donations”. While it is legal, I am not sure that it is on the ethical side of the line.

  9. quartet-man wrote:

    #8, I agree. Legal and ethical aren’t always the same.

  10. CVH wrote:

    “Ethical” reflects the degree to which morally-informed values have penetrated a person’s heart and the actions that follow. “Legal” is much more black and white and it will land your ass in jail, which may be where it belongs. Shady ethics and practices in gospel music are nothing new. Too often they’re explained with a “Gee, we just did it for the Lord” or “Oh that doesn’t mean us, does it?” excuse.

    If SG comprised a bigger share of the music industry (Gaither excluded) and was less of a downmarket phenomenon you’d probably see better ethics. In the absence of that, perhaps publishers should be more proactive about copyright infringement, including legal enforcement if necessary. Even if the return didn’t justify the expense the point needs to be made that infringement, if it exists, is not only morally unacceptable, but illegal as well.

  11. nonSGfan wrote:

    As a person that has gone through traumatic death experiences, I personally find it appauling that we would even BEGIN discussing the family of Dottie Rambo (their intentions, decisions, ect.) I understand this quote is not questioning the family, but it only continues a discussion that never should have started in the first place, in the name of compassion.

  12. Alan wrote:

    Having recorded a Gaither song, with first - hand experience in dealing with their publishing arm, I have no doubt but that every song on their DVD’s that isn’t Public Domain has been properly licensed. Quite probably, more than any other songwriters, Bill and Gloria know the harm of not getting every license and getting it right. I would similarly be totally surprised if the songs from Dottie’s funeral weren’t also protected in one form or another. Since they were evidently of her own composition, perhaps the mechanical fees were waived in consideration of her death, but we will likely never know. Since both of their names came up here, I’d bet we would all be stunned if we were ever told how many artists have recorded Gaither and Rambo songs, without ever even filing for licenses.

  13. Leebob wrote:

    NSGF…I agree with you on this but people are going to discuss things. It is simply a matter of which way it will go, privately or publicly.

  14. nonSGfan wrote:

    yea, I understand that. But it doesn’t make it right.

  15. CVH wrote:

    There’s a part of me that would like to agree with NSGF’s comment but it’s naive to think that the subject would be off limits in the interest of good taste, or almost any other constraint, in the day of MySpace, Facebook and self-revealing blogs. The various parties involved have abdicated their right to privacy because they themselves have put it (the memorial service, the DVD) in the public square. They would be entitled to privacy if they held a private memorial service and it wasn’t recorded for posterity (or profit) but that was not the case. I don’t think anyone wants to be crass in discussing it, but if it’s out there…and it is…it’s fair game.

  16. RK wrote:

    If a family chooses to grieve a loss privately, by all means they should be allowed to do so with the utmost respect for dignity and privacy.

    However, if they choose to offer DVD’s of a funeral service for sale to fans at-large, then the that product they are offering for sale is most certainly fair game for discussion, analysis, and review.

  17. intheknow wrote:

    Did everyone miss the fact that every song sung at the memorial were songs written by Dottie. It was after all a memorial and celebration of her life.

  18. quartet-man wrote:

    #17, you miss the point. Even if she is the writer, she does not own them anymore. She gets royalties, but the publishing companies control them as far as I know.

  19. cdguy wrote:

    Alan #12 — If I read your comment correctly, I think you’re assuming this DVD was a Gaither-related product. I don’t think that is the case. If it were a Gaither project, you would be correct in assuming their licensing folks would have done all the necessary legwork. However, if it were a Gaither-related company producing this dvd, they would probably also be the ones marketing it, which they are not. It’s Donnie, Reba & Buck, who are making it available. And I think the word “exclusively” has been used in conjunction with this marketing, too. (It may be for “donation”, but it’s still marketing.)

    So the assumption that licensing was not handled may still be valid. Note that no one has come to the defense of the family to state they did the appropriate licensing, or received special waiver of royalties. Not that they should have to defend themselves, but this thread has gone on long enough, you’d think someone would speak up, if they knew for sure it was handled properly. You’d think so, anyway.

  20. Kyle wrote:

    Speaking of Gaither and licensing, I seem to remember that Paul Simon took part in the “Let Freedom Ring”/”God Bless America” video taping, but was not included in final products due to licensing issues. Unless you were there, you would have no clue that he even sang, as his face or voice is no where to be found on the video.

    Not to mention, if you watch the DVD release of, I believe, one of the Christmas shows (can’t remember for sure, but I know it was one that originally was only available on VHS), after the credits roll (including individual song writer & publisher credits), they run a “CORRECTION” line for one of the songs that apparently was incorrect in the original release, so they are indeed picky about royalties!!

    Also, even if someone sings one or two lines of a song, Gaither gets clearance for it. During the Cathedrals Farewell video, Joe Bonsall sings two lines of “Since Jesus Passed By” while telling a story. Watch the credits at the end of the show….it’s listed!!

  21. quartet-man wrote:

    Gaither is picky about doing things right, by the book etc. A friend of mine knew someone who did the Gaither lp covers years ago and they said they were picky. I mean this in a good way in that they wanted it done right. Gaither told about singing with ascap (I think, but it might have been BMI) and how they were taking a lot of the Christian programs to court for not paying royalties. He took a lot of flack because whereas other people had names of publishing companies that were hard to tell who they were, his had Gaither on there. He eventually had people try to pay him off on the side, but he didn’t do that because it was dishonest and cutting the performance rights company out by circumventing them. He also started his PR company and I think eventually other things in house to do the jobs right.

    Kyle, Paul Simon (or his publisher if he doesn’t own the rights) is real picky about royalties. He didn’t allow his “Gone At Last” song (I think) to be included in gospel collections (it seems like it had won an award one year and the songbook was the songs that had won that award over the years.) It was said that permission was denied from the publisher. There were other times that his music was the exception to things.
    Remember too that the Oaks asked him to write songs for him and he said he saved his songs for himself. He also introduced the Boys when he brought them back to sing on Slip Sliding Away to recut even a single note and to mix different cuts together to get them so so back in the days when it was much harder to do. So, he seems to be another that is particular. :-)

  22. quartet-man wrote:

    #21 Geez, I meant signing not singing. Freudian slip? ;-)

  23. quartet-man wrote:

    #22 Disclaimer: Quartet-man did not mean Geez as a replacement for the Lord or was taking His name in vain.

  24. not a grammarian wrote:

    Thanks for the clarification. I had my handful of rocks ready.

  25. quartet-man wrote:

    #24. I’m glad I put that disclaimer in because the anti-stone barricade is being shared between two others and I don’t know if they will give it up for me. ;-)

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