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How to protect your perf royalties while allowing games to stream their game?

musicbyjoao

Member
This is a new question for me.

Nowadays, when dealing with film directors, I can usually handle myself to keep my rights and assure that their interest is secured.

However, I am not aware of how to do this for video games and have come across a few companies that require me to give my ownership away. One of them stating that they need it in order to control the streaming part of things.

My understanding is that you can write a contract with them and include the stream use in the license. But there's the thing about the content ID that I haven't wrapped my head around completely. My guess is that by including streaming in the license and by registering the content ID properly, that you can still keep your rights? How does one achieve this? I understand that my knowledge is limited.

In the end, I just want a win/win deal and to be able to assure them that they will be able to stream while I'm able to collect my royalties.
 

reborn579

Member
from what i've seen game studios don't always see composers the way film / tv studios do. a lot of game companies have their own in house composers whom they give a monthly salary to and who work an 8 hr / day 9-5 job. not all studios, but a lot of them have this mentality. so it depends how the studio you're working with sees things.

one thing you could do is charge more upfront in case they really don't want to give you any streaming rights. or if you can negotiate a part of the content ID royalties, that's even better. it's quite easy to register a song for content ID - there are a lot of companies who do that and who have quite a low cut from those royalties (usually around 10-20%). just do a quick google search.

the issue though, is to manage to get the studio to agree with streaming royalties, because if they don't you won't be able to just sign up for content ID. you can even say that you can take care of content ID yourself - in case they don't want the hassle.

but another issue is the idea of registering for content ID in the first place. youtube content creators (especially game streamers) really hate content ID. and for good reason - the implementation is very disadvantageous for youtube creators, especially if they make money from ads, and not just patreon / sponsorships. some people will avoid streaming a game if they're told it features content ID music.

a good example of what i'm saying is this upcoming game called cyberpunk 2077. very anticipated, and quite a huge production, with a lot of money invested. but even they didn't go to someone like hans zimmer or a film composer to make their music. the music - which is quite good - is made by some in house composers (2 polish composers, and a british one). and they've even announced a setting in the game where you can turn off all content ID music, just so youtube streamers don't have any issues.
(the content ID music is not really the music made by the composers, but some songs produced by edm / techno / pop acts)
 

Kevinside

Active Member
There was a great funny vid out there, after twitch made the big strike, cause of ingame music, which is often licenced...GTA amd more...
sry i must post it...

At last why should streamers of games only be sued using ingame music...
Hey... What about the visuals, the textures, all the graphics...which make the game,hmm a game? Is this not copyrighted?

sry for this post...
 
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musicbyjoao

musicbyjoao

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Thank you reborn579,

My experience is that it is uncommon for game companies to have in-house composers because they usually cost more than your average worker considering the many hats that you have to wear as well. There are very few that will do that but most of them will just have their go-to composer and will pay them per project as opposed to a salary.

Thanks for explaining the content ID. I have googled it but so far I'm still trying to understand it. When searching, I found there was a Youtube link to some spreadsheet for metadata but when I clicked on the link, it appeared to not let me see the file. Watched a few videos but none so far have shown the actual process and it seems that, for Youtube, you need to be part of the Partner program in order to be able to create a content ID?

So, is YouTube content ID different from Twich content ID? If I go to this amuse.io website, does it take care of it all?
 
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musicbyjoao

musicbyjoao

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At last why should streamers of games only be sued using ingame music...
Hey... What about the visuals, the textures, all the graphics...which make the game,hmm a game? Is this not copyrighted?

I don't think that suing is the way to go, all I want it to get my royalties as it doesn't make sense not to get them and is wrong for a game company to prevent you from it. I feel they don't do this on purpose, though, but mostly because they also don't understand how to make it work.
That's what I'm trying to understand =). How to make it work both ways.

Answering your question: those other components are copyrighted and belong to the company that have released it. But music is different. It is much easier to access to a game's music by its own than most art components in a game or code. Be that from the company publishing the music by itself online or creating a soundtrack album, making that much easier for a, say a new director making a TV ad, to use it. If that does happen, you, as the composer, should be getting paid for the use of your track on that TV ad. If Mario gets on an advertisement without authorisation from Nintendo, you bet there will be a lawsuit there.
 

reborn579

Member
At last why should streamers of games only be sued using ingame music...
well, they're not getting sued. sometimes it happens that the videos are taken down, but 90% of the time they just won't be able to monetize those videos. i suppose the game designer could copyright the graphics as well, but they know it's not in their best interest.
however, this happens sometimes with youtube creators who do hollywood film essays - sometimes their videos get taken down because the studio flagged the video as breaching copyright (not the audio). even though, if you use content for art critique (or parody etc), you don't really breach copyright law.. this is why people don't really like content id.

So, is YouTube content ID different from Twich content ID? If I go to this amuse.io website, does it take care of it all?
i suppose it's the same as twich content ID. it's basically an algorithm which makes a sort of electronic signature of a song, and which can afterwards recognize the song in any video.
here's some info about that from cd baby (i'm not endorsing them, just for the info): https://cdbaby.com/social-video-monetization.aspx
you don't have to be the one registering content id, just sign up for a company that does that for you. cd baby also does this, but you won't be able to license the song anywhere else (if i'm not mistaken), so it's a no go for your case.
 

gsilbers

Part of Pulsesetter-Sounds.com
The above info is good. But to add this since we got used to it.

There is no real reason anymore for video game scores to be buyout and not provide royalties.
Video games used to come in dvds and similar to how movie dvds worked,
There was no way to know how many times it got played. So composers back then where ok giving up Royalties or get paid upfront. Mainly because they got more money from the movie deals and broadcast and dvd games and movies where not really a thing and was called home entertainment.

and that’s it. We gave up, we got used to it. They got used to it and everyone moved on. But now with internet and subscriptions etc, we can know exactly how many times a song in video game is played and generate royalties.

bur wegave up. Got used to it.

of course now it’s too late and everyone doesn’t want to give royalties.

and it’s interesting that it’s not about money that much as it is a royal pain in the ass. It would cost more paying a lawyer to draft up a new contract, change Internal company workflows, than it would be to pay you a good amount of money for your music.

so anyways. I’ll be over here hiding with my Che Guevara t shirt:)
 

rgames

Collapsing the Wavefunction
Just make sure your up-front payment is good enough to make it worth your while. Then the royalties, if any, are just an added bonus.

If you want to complicate a bit then you can just write in limits on streaming. If they go beyond X streams they have to pay an additional Y dollars.

rgames
 

purple

Senior Member
Should they also have to pay royalties for sound effects? In-game textures? Code? Why is music special here? Anyways all that will do is cause streamers to turn off in-game music and use some other music over their streams or avoid buying games from companies that implemented such a policy to avoid a legal headache. It'll also just make streamers and their viewers angry. This is all assuming they can find a way to easily force royalties to be paid, which even with current copyright algorithms would be hard to do.
 

JohnG

Senior Member
Music IS special bruv. That's why we get royalties; we make stuff up that wasn't there before.

Of course there are ambiguities -- what exactly is music? -- and all that.
 
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musicbyjoao

musicbyjoao

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here's some info about that from cd baby (i'm not endorsing them, just for the info): https://cdbaby.com/social-video-monetization.aspx
Thank you for this info reborn579! I appreciate it. Will read it soon!

There is no real reason anymore for video game scores to be buyout and not provide royalties.
Video games used to come in dvds and similar to how movie dvds worked,
I enjoyed your reply gsilbersm, thank you. But those game CD's would generate mech royalties like film DVDs, wouldn't they?

so anyways. I’ll be over here hiding with my Che Guevara t shirt:)
haha

Should they also have to pay royalties for sound effects? In-game textures? Code? Why is music special here? Anyways all that will do is cause streamers to turn off in-game music and use some other music over their streams or avoid buying games from companies that implemented such a policy to avoid a legal headache.
All of those components are copyrighted and if someone is making good money without proper authorisation then there will be a lawsuit. Code is also protected. Remember when Sony bought the code behind Horizon Zero Dawn?

Re: Why music is special.
Animators, artists, coders, all have 9-5 jobs with a monthly payment and they do the one job. A composer is too costly (we wear many different hats) and hence why very few video game companies hire full-time composers andwhy most professional composers work as self-employed or create their own company.
You will also have dozens if not hunderds of those 9-5 guys for a single project, while you only have, most of the times, one music composer, which means that job opportunity is extremely low.
Royalties help a composer keep afloat, besides it just being fair. Why would you not be paid if someone if using your music to sell something? Not only that, music carries a much bigger weight on the total product than the sum of a lot of the part of a video game. Ask Steven Spielberg or George Lucas about the weight of music and its importance of a film and they will reply that it is 50% of the impact.

In addition, and copying from what I wrote in a reply above - It is much easier to access to a game's music by its own than most art components in a game or code. Be that from the company publishing the music by itself online or creating a soundtrack album, making that much easier for a, say a new director making a TV ad, to use it. If that does happen, you, as the composer, should be getting paid for the use of your track on that TV ad. If Mario gets on an advertisement without authorisation from Nintendo, you bet there will be a lawsuit there.


I think there is a workaround here to have both sides happy. Giving one the ability to stream and the other the one to collect perf royalties if other people outside the game company use your music. Essentially, keeping ownership without affecting streaming.

I don't assume there is an entertainment lawyer in this forum?

Thanks everyone for all the insight. Was not expecting all the replies when I logged in today =)
 
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musicbyjoao

musicbyjoao

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If you want to complicate a bit then you can just write in limits on streaming. If they go beyond X streams they have to pay an additional Y dollars.

Thank you for this idea. I'll note that down if I ever need to negotiate that.
 

gsilbers

Part of Pulsesetter-Sounds.com
just a note, for contracts in general:

have the terms and contracts that you can use and present to them and not the other way around.

Companies/prodcutions etc just have pre-set templates for composers that they figured out a long time ago by paying a lawyer to provide the best deal for them.
You are not going to tell them about one clause about streaming because they will have no idea what you are talking about. They have no clue. you will interact with pencil pusher who just like you, do not know anyhting about contracts or legal stuff, even less about changing one clause.

So thats my suggestion. hire a lawyer and get a pre-set templates of contracts for different situations. if you are a movie composer then a deal about owning the master and copyright and its a sync license for that movie and all marketing, forever, galaxy wise (or universe- cause lawyers are dumb and think the music might go outside our galaxy). Another for giving up master license but keeping copyright for royalties and so on.

for video games, the same or similar where you license the music for the game for video game purpsoes and marketing of that video game. not for anything else. and if they want streaming rights like spotify then thats a different contract and so on. Just imagine different scenarios but making sure how music is used on their end. including further distribution deals, change of game versions and so on.

it will cost them a LOT less for you to state the terms on an email, making sure its a great deal to them and their game/movie, attached the contract and maybe have a phone call. But its a lot more expensive, and possibly loose the gig, if you start arguing about legal terms and copyrights, since it will cost more for that company to have a lawyer re-write a contract than it is to pay you AND another composer who will do it for whichever terms they want.

i say from experience dealing with distribution at fox. anyone coming back with an email about crsazy pricing or copyright stuff, or hundred questions, it will be just a polite reply of ill get back to you and never call back while i deal with another company or person who understands better the situation. And this is mainly because thats what i was told to do. But a short email with everything already setup, stating the issue, quick terms and the attached contract, i could just forward that to the lawyer and ask if its ok, they will come back and say sure and thats it. And Move on. Remeber, you are just another needle in the cog of a huge process so making it easy is key in the entertianment biz.
 
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musicbyjoao

musicbyjoao

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have the terms and contracts that you can use and present to them and not the other way around.
First of all, thank you for taking the time to write your reply. That was informative and a good strategy indeed, which I will also keep for future reference.

Movie wise, I don't struggle to keep my ownership and royalties. Game wise, however, though I don't struggle with it when dealing with new startups, I have had a couple more developed companies saying that they only work with composers who give up their ownership and after I mentioned to a contact of mine who has worked in several triple A games, he told me it was standard. Worst of all, this all happens because no one knows any better and because the lines in the ground with streaming technology are still all murky.

I'm trying to define those lines. See how to draw them and really understand them, if you know what I mean.
 
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