From TODAY Online: They've only just begun - to charge
SINGAPORE - Wedding couples planning to show video or photo montages accompanied by popular love songs - the de rigueur for wedding celebrations these days - should think twice: Either they cough up between $100 and $200 for each song or risk getting hit in the pocket for copyright infringement.
MediaCorp has learnt that the Composers and Authors Society of Singapore (Compass) - which represents over 1,000 composers and lyricists in Singapore, including JJ Lin and Taufik Batisah, and at least one million more members worldwide - is clamping down on the illegal use of copyrighted music for weddings.
It has sent letters to wedding photographers and videographers asking them to buy the licences for songs they wish to use - on their corporate websites and in their works - while stopping short of suggesting active enforcement.
Compass' actions have left industry players in a limbo, with some even advising their customers against using copyrighted songs in their own amateur montages.
Engineer Benjamin Koh (not his real name), for one, has decided to do away with music completely on his photo montage, to be shown during his wedding reception next month.
His three-week effort would show pictures of their growing-up years and courtship days in silence, without the romantic love song he and his wife had chosen.
"It's a bummer because it's less touching without the music, but I'm not willing to pay for the licence," said Mr Koh, 29, who learned about this from his wedding photographer.
When contacted, Compass confirmed that it has stepped up efforts this year to collect royalties from wedding videographers and photographers - it has been writing to them since January, asking them to pay licence fees.
The stricter enforcement arose from the "increasingly rampant" use of copyrighted material, the spokesman said, without disclosing how it arrived at such a conclusion.
Although most hotels pay an annual fee for the rights to play a list of copyrighted songs in their premises, the spokesman said wedding couples still need to pay to play copyrighted songs at their reception.
Many couples told MediaCorp they were unaware of such a requirement and felt the licence fees were too costly.
"A wedding is a private event where you invite your close friends and relatives to celebrate together; not a public performance where you charge an entrance fee," said newly-wed Felicia Lee, 25.
Compass declined to say what would happen to those who flout the rules but said it has not conducted "raids" at wedding receptions so far.
According to the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore website, remedies for copyright owners in civil lawsuits include injunctions, damages and account of profits. Depending on the flagrancy of the infringement, the court may also order additional damages to be paid by the infringing party to the copyright owner.
For now, it seems that those who make a living out of shooting wedding photos or videos are under closer scrutiny.
Said the spokesman: "The fundamental thing is the music is not created by you, so you can't take someone else's efforts and profit from it."
Compass is apparently stricter about the use of music on the websites of photographers and videographers, and these lensmen fear business may suffer if it comes down equally hard on wedding montages.
"If Compass decides to clamp down on this and charge us, we will have no choice but to raise our charges," said a freelance photographer.
Another felt that Compass should be more transparent. "They should state clearly who they represent, which are the copyrighted songs, and how much one has to pay for different uses - for example, on a website or for a photo montage," he said. "That way, businesses will be more willing to pay for the licences because we can then prove to customers there's a reason for raising our charges."