You are here

Using Charlie Chaplin samples?

Advice on everything from getting your music heard to setting up a label and royalties.

Using Charlie Chaplin samples?

Postby AJScott755 » Tue Feb 11, 2020 11:18 am

Hi folk

I have researched online relentlessly for help with this problem regarding sampling audio from a movie. However it's very difficult to find definitive answers and I'm hoping you good folk might have done something similar and can offer some advice.

So here it is, I'm currently in a small group/project who are writing our first EP. It's going very well so far, on our favourite song on the EP we have used samples of Charlie Chaplins speech from "The Great Dictator". Probably about 2 minutes of audio from his speech at the end of the movie that's been chopped up and re arranged and now sits within a 7 minute song.

What are the legalities of sampling audio from that movie? The movie was released in 1940 and I assumed it would live in the public domain and is essentially fair game now, however doing a bit of digging apparently the copyright is owned. If you google "Charlie Chaplin copyright" you will see what I'm talking about in the first link.

We have approached the company who own the copyright and explained what we want to do, however they want an extraordinary amount of money for the rights to do so.

Could someone out there please offer some advice? Can the copyright for a movie 80 years old still be in place? Is it not in the public domain?

Any help is appreciated - we really should have looked into this before creating this song however it's a piece of music we're all so pleased with we want to get it out there (even if it means putting it out there entirely for free)

Post edit: I don't know if it's worth noting, but a bit of googling finds an awful lot of music out there that samples the same speech I have. I'm going out on a whim and assuming that each of these artists (considering their hits on YouTube) haven't paid the fee from the copyright company. I certainly don't want to do anything illegal as we're taking this EP seriously.
AJScott755
Poster
Posts: 15
Joined: Tue Jan 07, 2020 5:51 pm

Re: Using Charlie Chaplin samples?

Postby Eddy Deegan » Tue Feb 11, 2020 11:34 am

AJScott755 wrote:
What are the legalities of sampling audio from that movie? The movie was released in 1940 and I assumed it would live in the public domain and is essentially fair game now, however doing a bit of digging apparently the copyright is owned. If you google "Charlie Chaplin copyright" you will see what I'm talking about in the first link.

We have approached the company who own the copyright and explained what we want to do, however they want an extraordinary amount of money for the rights to do so.

Could someone out there please offer some advice? Can the copyright for a movie 80 years old still be in place? Is it not in the public domain?

It's not in the public domain until 95 years have elapsed.

https://www.indiewire.com/2018/04/copyr ... 201950438/

A bunch of films made in 1923 did not become available for public use until 2019 so for one made in 1940 I'm afraid you've got a long wait before it joins them.

Sorry, but as far as I can see you're out of luck. The copyright is still valid and will be for some time. If the owners have named a figure and you can't negotiate it down then you cannot legally use it.

2 minutes is a lot of material to use even if it is chopped up and it would not fall under "fair use".

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer, copyright or otherwise.
User avatar
Eddy Deegan
Frequent Poster (Level2)
Posts: 3346
Joined: Wed Sep 01, 2004 12:00 am
Location: Brighton & Hove, UK
Some of my works.
Please consider supporting the SOS Forum Album project.
 

Re: Using Charlie Chaplin samples?

Postby Eddy Deegan » Tue Feb 11, 2020 11:49 am

If I was in your position, I would be inclined to write out the portion of the speech you wish you use, then work on re-wording it in different English making the sentences markedly different from the original but retaining its dramatic nature.

In other words write a completely different speech that has the same feel to it. It can have the same literary themes, so you could legitimately refer to the original for inspiration on subjects to talk about.

Then, record you or someone else reading out that in appropriately dramatic manner, possibly artificially age it with some EQ, added noise (or whatever) and then sample your version to use in your track.

In a musical context it's probably as much about the tone and intensity of the original speech than it is about the actual speech as recorded in the film so a substitute should have much the same effect if done right.

It's a bit of work, but at least you only have to spend time on that rather than lots of money!
User avatar
Eddy Deegan
Frequent Poster (Level2)
Posts: 3346
Joined: Wed Sep 01, 2004 12:00 am
Location: Brighton & Hove, UK
Some of my works.
Please consider supporting the SOS Forum Album project.
 

Re: Using Charlie Chaplin samples?

Postby blinddrew » Tue Feb 11, 2020 11:51 am

Eddy may not be a lawyer but I'm afraid he's right.
If it's any consolation I'm aware of at least two songs that already use that speech so I'd suggest a more original approach might be to write something of your own and then treat the audio accordingly.
User avatar
blinddrew
Jedi Poster
Posts: 9099
Joined: Sun Jul 05, 2015 12:00 am
Location: York
Ignore the post count, I have no idea what I'm doing...

Re: Using Charlie Chaplin samples?

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Tue Feb 11, 2020 12:01 pm

I'm not a lawyer either... but I don't believe putting your EP 'out for free' will provide you with a 'get out of jail' card! The issue is not whether (or not) you make money from someone else's copyrighted work, but just the fact that you've used someone else's Copyrighted work without gaining the appropriate permissions.

Obviously you can carry on and take the risk of using the material without permission -- as clearly a lot of people do -- and hope the copyright holders don't notice or can't be bothered to sue. But it is potentially a big gamble.... and especially since you've already drawn the copyright holder's eye to your intentions.

The legal departments of the big copyright holders will always ask for silly money just because they can... and often big companies will pay big bucks to use classic archive material for their ad campaigns or whatever. I dread to think what Tesco paid to use the Humphrey Bogart clips! So when the legal beagles hear about 'a record' they're either going to think platinum sales and big money... or they'll state a price to make you go away and save all that effort of drawing up the paperwork and keeping checks on sales figures.

You can try and negotiate, of course. Maybe a sales percentage rather than a flat upfront fee...

But it might well be worthwhile getting some professional legal advice from someone who really knows about copyright laws.
User avatar
Hugh Robjohns
Moderator
Posts: 25881
Joined: Fri Jul 25, 2003 12:00 am
Location: Worcestershire, UK
Technical Editor, Sound On Sound

Re: Using Charlie Chaplin samples?

Postby AJScott755 » Tue Feb 11, 2020 12:27 pm

Thanks guys, I had suspected as much.

I do like the idea of essentially re writing it, recording it ourselves and digitally ageing it. That's totally possible and not something I had considered.

Final question - Does a list exist of works that are in the public domain (We're in the UK, if that matters) that are essentially free to sample? It would have been smart for me to check for such a thing before writing this song.

I don't want what we've created to go to waste, hopefully we can release something similar to what we intended.
AJScott755
Poster
Posts: 15
Joined: Tue Jan 07, 2020 5:51 pm

Re: Using Charlie Chaplin samples?

Postby Eddy Deegan » Tue Feb 11, 2020 12:42 pm

AJScott755 wrote:Does a list exist of works that are in the public domain (We're in the UK, if that matters) that are essentially free to sample?

I'm not aware of any definitive lists and it would be quite hard to keep track of them anyway but these might be useful as a starting point for you:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_f ... ted_States
http://www.openculture.com/list-of-grea ... main-films

There are a lot of public domain films out there!
User avatar
Eddy Deegan
Frequent Poster (Level2)
Posts: 3346
Joined: Wed Sep 01, 2004 12:00 am
Location: Brighton & Hove, UK
Some of my works.
Please consider supporting the SOS Forum Album project.
 

Re: Using Charlie Chaplin samples?

Postby CS70 » Tue Feb 11, 2020 1:39 pm

No lawyer here either , but as Eddie and others have said, I'd say it's a no go to do it without permission.

While litigation for damages seldom happens unless there's some serious money involved, it's much easier for the copyright owner to take other takedown actions: ask your work taken down from social media, publisher (or aggregator) and streaming services, plus impacting any revenue you may have from both your PRO and mechanical royalties.

The fact that they are large and there is a realistic possibility that they would follow thru on their threats is usually enough for a third party (aggregator, radios etc) to accept their claim. So you risk that all your work end up in smoke, and your band begins with a bad reputation.

The "rewrite" option, besides being far more creative, is a great idea.

One angle you could pursue is to see if - if there's other songs which have sampled the material legally - you could license _them_. Obviously they must be more than a reproduction of the original, but say a hip hop tracks with some beats and pads in the background exist, you might be able to use the normal licensing mechanism (you pay a fee for expected distribution numbers) - provided the license grants partial reproduction.
Still too much hassle I'd say.
User avatar
CS70
Jedi Poster
Posts: 4803
Joined: Mon Nov 26, 2012 1:00 am
Location: Oslo, Norway
Silver Spoon - Check out our latest video and the FB page

Re: Using Charlie Chaplin samples?

Postby CS70 » Tue Feb 11, 2020 1:41 pm

Eddy Deegan wrote:
AJScott755 wrote:Does a list exist of works that are in the public domain (We're in the UK, if that matters) that are essentially free to sample?

I'm not aware of any definitive lists and it would be quite hard to keep track of them anyway but these might be useful as a starting point for you:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_f ... ted_States
http://www.openculture.com/list-of-grea ... main-films

There are a lot of public domain films out there!

Thanks for these lists! I'm just looking at footage for the Rhymes and Reason trailer and as a trick is to begin with "known" images to keep people's attention (apparently an obscure band doesn't do :D) some public domain film imagery could do the trick. Now, where's.. "Gone with the Wind"... :)
User avatar
CS70
Jedi Poster
Posts: 4803
Joined: Mon Nov 26, 2012 1:00 am
Location: Oslo, Norway
Silver Spoon - Check out our latest video and the FB page

Re: Using Charlie Chaplin samples?

Postby CS70 » Tue Feb 11, 2020 1:44 pm

hm... "Debbie does Dallas" doesnt seem appropriate :D :D
User avatar
CS70
Jedi Poster
Posts: 4803
Joined: Mon Nov 26, 2012 1:00 am
Location: Oslo, Norway
Silver Spoon - Check out our latest video and the FB page

Re: Using Charlie Chaplin samples?

Postby ManFromGlass » Tue Feb 11, 2020 2:44 pm

One could always create their own version, although Fred Does Twickenham doesn’t quite have the same ring. . . . .

On a serious note many years ago a buddy who releases experimental music released a cd with an image on the cover of Michael Jackson’s head on a scrawny naked white girls body. This was back in the day when people were speculating that Jackson was slowly turning his skin colour white. The Michael Jackson people found out and were not amused. They leaned on some Canadian recording agency to seize all the CDs and grind them up. No charges were laid to my knowledge.
User avatar
ManFromGlass
Frequent Poster (Level2)
Posts: 2564
Joined: Sun Jul 24, 2011 12:00 am
Location: In the woods in Canada
 

Re: Using Charlie Chaplin samples?

Postby Music Wolf » Tue Feb 11, 2020 3:02 pm

Or take an entirely different approach and sample something from one of his silent movies.

It's a little known fact but John Cage's 4'33" was actually sampled wholesale from Chaplin's dialogue in The Gold Rush.

Oh, is that my coat? :D
User avatar
Music Wolf
Frequent Poster
Posts: 1854
Joined: Fri Feb 17, 2006 1:00 am
Location: Exiled to St Helens

Re: Using Charlie Chaplin samples?

Postby Kwackman » Tue Feb 11, 2020 3:10 pm

Music Wolf wrote:Oh, is that my coat? :D

Yes, it's an overly large white one with special straps that these gentleman will help you into, and then show you to a chair in a room with lots of padding, although not necessarily rockwool....
User avatar
Kwackman
Frequent Poster
Posts: 1498
Joined: Thu Nov 07, 2002 1:00 am
Location: Belfast
Cubase, guitars.

Re: Using Charlie Chaplin samples?

Postby Martin Walker » Wed Feb 12, 2020 2:46 am

Many thanks to Eddy Deegan for the three above links to non-copyright film content, as only yesterday evening I was doing a search for exactly this, for possible use as video material to accompany future music demos.

I'd already found sites that offer short (typically 30 second) clips in colour by recent video creators (a couple are : https://www.pexels.com/videos/ and https://www.dareful.com/), but old black and white content that I can edit to songs makes far more sense for my particular purposes.


Martin
User avatar
Martin Walker
Moderator
Posts: 15002
Joined: Wed Jan 13, 2010 9:44 am
Location: Cornwall, UK

Re: Using Charlie Chaplin samples?

Postby Eddy Deegan » Wed Feb 12, 2020 9:23 am

I'm glad the links were useful :-)

I'd double check the copyright status of any films before using them though, just to make absolutely sure they didn't get on one of the lists by accident!
User avatar
Eddy Deegan
Frequent Poster (Level2)
Posts: 3346
Joined: Wed Sep 01, 2004 12:00 am
Location: Brighton & Hove, UK
Some of my works.
Please consider supporting the SOS Forum Album project.
 

Re: Using Charlie Chaplin samples?

Postby blinddrew » Wed Feb 12, 2020 9:28 am

I've not checked Eddy's links so apologies if this is already covered, but remember that copyright is territorial, so what's in the public domain in one country may not be in another.
Also because of various term extensions some stuff has gone into and then back out of the public domain. Depending on how well curated those lists are that kind of thing can be easily missed.

It's almost as if copyright has got out of control and divorced from its original purpose... ;)
User avatar
blinddrew
Jedi Poster
Posts: 9099
Joined: Sun Jul 05, 2015 12:00 am
Location: York
Ignore the post count, I have no idea what I'm doing...

Re: Using Charlie Chaplin samples?

Postby AJScott755 » Wed Feb 12, 2020 11:34 am

Thanks everyone

I knew I'd find what I needed here, going to check out those lists suggested above. I think rewriting and recording our own is the way forward.

:thumbup: :thumbup: :thumbup:
AJScott755
Poster
Posts: 15
Joined: Tue Jan 07, 2020 5:51 pm

Re: Using Charlie Chaplin samples?

Postby The Red Bladder » Wed Feb 12, 2020 11:37 am

A great deal of misinformation here -

The original work is indeed out of copyright BUT you MUST have a copy of the original and take your audio from that and not from some more recent source that has been reworked and therefore has renewed the copyright. That means getting a copy of the original 35mm B&W film stock and having it rescanned.

It is for that reason that the various copyright holders of all works, written, recorded, filmed, videoed, whatever, remaster and rerelease works and do their best to replace old copies of the work with the better and restored copies. Beatles, Charlie Chaplin, Laurel & Hardy all restored and reworked. If you use a recent copy of The Beatles, EMI will come after you. If you use a recent copy of Laurel & Hardy, Kirch Media will come after you. If you use a recent copy of Charlie Chaplin, MGM will come after you.

And now the knotty question of - Would they really go after some poor schmuck putting out a bit of music on a CD or on YouTube?

The answer is YES. They have to!

They have to, not because they are hard-hearted swine or because they have nothing better to do, but because otherwise the copyright really does fall into the public domain and anybody can then show a reworked and remastered movie and even broadcast the damn thing.

Under US law, undefended copyright becomes public domain property!

I own copyrights and every few years I rework the original material and put it out there for people to find. They can find it. They can listen, read or look at the material - but if they use it without our written permission, I descend upon them like a ton of bricks!

EDIT - The word 'use' means to include it or to reissue it in any form whatsoever. The manner or intention of the reuse or reissue does not matter. Charity fund-raising, free give-aways, charging almost nothing, use commercially - all that counts as commercial exploitation and is, therefore, injurious to the copyright owner.
The Red Bladder
Frequent Poster (Level2)
Posts: 2352
Joined: Tue Jun 05, 2007 12:00 am
Location: . . .
 

Re: Using Charlie Chaplin samples?

Postby ManFromGlass » Wed Feb 12, 2020 1:52 pm

I’m by no means an expert but I have worked on film and tv projects where "fair use" was justification for a number of seconds of inclusion. I’ve never understood what that was about. In the end though, I think it’s about who has the better lawyer.
Justice is expensive should one feel wronged.
User avatar
ManFromGlass
Frequent Poster (Level2)
Posts: 2564
Joined: Sun Jul 24, 2011 12:00 am
Location: In the woods in Canada
 

Re: Using Charlie Chaplin samples?

Postby The Red Bladder » Wed Feb 12, 2020 3:19 pm

'Fair use' is a US legal concept and is very much down to individual circumstances. For example, using a Chapin excerpt in an academic work about 1920s cinema is 'fair use' but using the same piece in a music video would bring down the wrath of the gods. You can also use parts of a copyright product for satire or other critical examination (e.g. film critic article) under the mantle of 'fair use' but exploitation within a commercial product (regardless of the status of the final method by which it is marketed) is not 'fair use'.

This is a HUGE subject and interlocks with other US legal concepts such as image rights that do not exist in the UK or most other countries. For example, you cannot use David Beckham's image on a product in the US because that infringes his image rights. You cannot use his face in the UK because it is registered as a trademark.

My favorite failed attempt at using the argument of 'fair use' was when a toilet seat manufacturer made a seat that exclaimed: "Here's Johnny!" when you lifted the lid. Carson sued and won and was magnificently paraded through Hollywood on a sedan-chair made of a lavatory seat and carried by eight pretty girls in bikinis.

In 'The Shining' the producers had to get Carson's permission.
The Red Bladder
Frequent Poster (Level2)
Posts: 2352
Joined: Tue Jun 05, 2007 12:00 am
Location: . . .
 

Next