Memory Valley Music is Here to Protect You From Copyright Suits and Fines
The words “lawsuit” and “fines” can strike fear in the heart of any business owner, and rightly so. That’s why most take care to protect themselves from errors — intentional or accidental — that could lead to legal penalties. That’s also why Betsy Brumley created Memory Valley Music: To protect deathcare professionals from copyright infringements they may not even realize they’re making.
Although Betsy Brumley’s family has attained royalty status in the music business, having more than 100 years of experience in publishing and owning the rights to the funeral classic “I’ll Fly Away,” she and the Memory Valley Music team attended the 2022 National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) International Convention & Expo as deathcare advocates and licensing agents, not music publishers.
“I was happy to answer a lot of questions from attendees and fellow suppliers at NFDA,” Brumley says. “We understand that there’s a lot of confusion around what we do and around music licensing in general. It’s complicated and complex, and that’s why we’re here. We want to be sure funeral professionals are protected from potential lawsuits and fines for using unlicensed music in tribute videos.”
Performance licenses vs. synchronization licenses
While the music licenses provided by NFDA and the International Cemetery, Cremation & Funeral Association (ICCFA) protect licensees from several types of copyright infractions, they do not cover infractions stemming from tribute videos. Performance licenses like NFDA’s and ICCFA’s cover live performances, live streams, and music playing overhead, while synchronization licenses cover music that is synchronized with visual content.
Brumley explained to Connecting Directors in early October that the NFDA and ICCFA licenses do not include music recorded on flash drives or DVD tribute videos — which could be shared online and easily detected by artificial intelligence.
“There are artificial intelligence systems on the Internet that do nothing but search for music being shared online on social media,” explains Brumley. When those AI bots identify even a portion of copyrighted music being played without proper licensing, either the video has to be taken down and erased from the Internet forever, advertising has to be added to the broadcast, or the copyright owner will impose a fine, which is currently $300,000 ($150,000 for each of the two copyrights each song holds for the song’s composition and the sound recording), on the funeral home.
Yes, it could happen to you
At NFDA, Brumley fielded several questions about the probability of producers pursuing legal action against deathcare operations. Truthfully, she says, any organization of any type or size could be penalized. In our first interview, Brumley related that a fine was levied this May when an AI system detected a seven-second snippet of a Billie Eilish song in a DJ’s mix within a two-and-a-half-hour online concert.
She also shared other examples of real-life penalties. In March 2019, Peloton was sued for $150 million for allegedly failing to obtain synchronization rights for more than 1,000 songs that it has used in its streaming fitness classes over the years. Peloton settled out of court.
In 2020, Tufts University was sued for using an unlicensed song in a YouTube video promoting the school’s lacrosse team. The suit was brought after the University ignored multiple warnings from the owner of the song’s copyright. The case is still pending.
Amway, a multi-level marketing company founded in 1959, was slapped with a lawsuit in 1996 for producing and selling motivational and promotional videotapes using unlicensed music. They settled the case in 1998 for $9 million.
Just this August, Lin-Manuel Miranda sued a Texas church for staging an unauthorized production of his musical “Hamilton,” in which they altered lyrics, deleted songs, and added dialogue. The church was ordered to pay an undisclosed amount in damages after receiving a cease-and-desist letter.
Brumley said one NFDA attendee shared with her that their funeral home had received a similar cease-and-desist letter for synchronization violations, so they understood the importance of obtaining proper licensing. Memory Valley Music was created to help keep this — and further legal action — from happening to other organizations within the deathcare profession.
Working with Memory Valley
Brumley and her team aren’t attorneys, and they aren’t here to represent you if you are sued for copyright infringement. Instead, they offer access to legally-licensed music and will help you to obtain the proper synchronization licensing for songs that aren’t in their catalog that you may want to use in tribute videos and other recorded media.
With Memory Valley Music’s recently-launched tribute video production service, users can create tribute videos to include properly-licensed songs. Simply visit www.memoryvalleymusic.com, choose a package (which is priced based on the number of songs you’d like to use in the video), and add personal details and photos that tell the story of a loved one’s life. Memory Valley Music’s system lets you share a link with the family so they can participate in adding content, as well. When you’re done, you’ll get a watermarked version of the video to preview before completing payment.
After you’ve approved the video, you’ll receive verification of the licenses you’ve purchased for the music and a link to embed the video on your website and send to the family to share with others on social media or via email or text. Anytime someone clicks the link to watch the video on your funeral home’s website, they’re actually linking to where the video resides securely on Memory Valley Music’s private server.
“Having one link to the video containing licensed music that you’ve purchased protects you from copyright infringement,” explains Brumley. “The link can’t be shared on YouTube, and the video can’t be downloaded to be saved on a flash drive or DVD. The license covers one recording of the song, and copying the video would require additional licenses.”
If a song you’d like to use isn’t included in the Memory Valley Music catalog, Brumley and her team will work with the copyright owners to negotiate a license. This process can be time-consuming, so Brumley suggests that you share the most-requested songs with Memory Valley Music so they can get the ball rolling.