Sita Sings the Blues
includes 11 songs recorded by Annette Hanshaw in 1927-1929. The
recordings themselves are not protected by Federal Copyright. The
underlying compositions are. So we (my sales rep’s law firm, to whom I
now owe additional thousands of dollars) approached the so-called music
publishers to negotiate rights. After all demanded $500 per song to
permit the film to play at festivals (for which I make no money and am
in debt), here’s what they “estimate” for me to legally sell DVDs:
$15,000 to $26,000 per song.
Said “publishers,” entrusted with compositions that should have been in the Public Domain decades ago, include:
Universal Music Publishing Group (UMPG):
None will accept a royalty based on the film’s revenues. Right now
the film has no revenues, because it isn’t released; but no distributor
will release it without the rights cleared first. Catch-22.
Historically, distributors would sometimes front large sums of money
for such rights-clearing purposes, but not this year. American
distributors are going bankrupt and offering miniscule sums (if
anything) for indies right now.
Of course $220,000 is peanuts to a big studio, but it exceeds the entire budget of Sita. Do the publishers know that? We’ve informed them. Do they care? No. It’s fine with them if Sita
is never released. Which makes them a bad parasite. Successful
parasites don’t kill their host bodies. If they actually paid attention
and negotiated realistically, they could make some money. Instead, they
ensure Sita - and countless other independent films - will never have a legal release.
Full interview here:
Great quote "What do religious fundamentalists and big media corporations have in common ? They believe that they own culture"