Rumblefish, YouTube Team Up to Offer Music Licensing Service for Consumers

One of the complications of living in an information age is the fact that an endless amount of digital content is available anywhere and at all times, no matter who owns it. For creators—artists, writers, musicians—the massive influx of digital information has meant intellectual property is more easily reprinted, plagiarized, pirated and downright stolen virally. For the average person not up to date on the latest in copyright infringement law, it means that cute video that you posted on YouTube of your 6-year-old nephew dressed up as a zombie and dancing to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” could get flagged for copyright violation, blocked, or even taken down.

But believe it or not, many Web content powerhouses, like YouTube, don’t enjoy slapping their users with copyright infringement citations. In fact, yesterday Portland, OR-based music licensing company Rumblefish announced a partnership with YouTube to launch a non-commercial licensing service that would give the everyday home movie maker legal rights to use thousands of tracks worldwide in any non-commercial video.

“We’re really looking to service the average YouTube user with this and we would like to reach as many of these filmmakers as possible and just make music as easy to use as we can, and to get them the best music that we can under a non-commercial license,” Rumblefish founder and CEO Paul Anthony said on a conference call with media representatives Wednesday.

The service, called Friendly Music, will roll out on Tuesday, July 29, and will allow the average Joe to search through a catalogue of over 35,000 tracks by independent artists and labels from over 35 countries. Users can select a song, and purchase the license for $1.99 per track, per video, for as long as the video is online. An official license will be sent to the user via e-mail upon purchase.

“We’re selling an official license with each song,” Anthony said. “It allows users to have unlimited views, and the rights are in perpetuity for as long as the video is online.”

YouTube’s current editing tools, AudioSwap and Video Editor, allow users to swap out their existing audio for songs from a preapproved list, much of which is already serviced by Rumblefish, into their already uploaded videos on the website. How Friendly Music licenses will be different is that they will give users the ability to download the track, edit it into their video using their own video editing software, and upload it to back up to YouTube legally. This capability reaches an un-serviced group of users, according to Glenn Brown,YouTube’s head of music partnerships.

Usually when users upload videos that violate copyright laws, “we generally leave the video up and set it to monetize and pay our partners out for it,” Glenn said.

With Friendly Music, he says, it will be clearer to consumers what tracks they can and cannot use legally before putting their video online.

“Right now there’s not a lot of clarity for users that when they upload the video, their video is going to stay up for as long as they’d like it to,” Brown said. “This is just basically the first step toward the much bigger trend of content companies being really user-friendly with their licensing models, and explaining to users upfront what their rights and responsibilities are.”

Though the catalogue currently does not contain any tracks from major label artists, Anthony says it does include many tracks from popular films and TV shows, such as Entourage, networks including MTV, video game companies like Ubisoft, and many global brands. He also noted that new tracks will be added on a daily basis alongside one free song download every week, and said the service is currently working on developing a deal to include tracks from bigger-name artists and labels, which will be rolled out in the coming months. A downloadable list of notable independent artists and labels available through the service can be seen here.

Although YouTube is a partner in the service, the Friendly Music licenses will not require that users upload the videos exclusively to YouTube—the two dollar license gives users the right to use a song in a video and post it anywhere on the web, provided that the use is for non-commercial purposes. And for the average YouTube video-surfer, videos with Friendly Music licenses will mean you’ll never have to click on a clip entitled “Baby dancing to Beyonce,” only to find the audio has been removed due to copyright infringement.

As for competition, Rumblefish said it has none in the consumer market.

“This is different because it’s the first time users have been given the opportunity to buy a direct license from music rights holders,” Anthony said. The service, he says, will give the movie-making consumer access to an extensive bank of copyright-cleared songs “to help users create professional quality sounding soundtracks for their video,” without having to purchase expensive rights deals directly through artists or labels.

If a user’s Friendly Music licensed video became a big hit on YouTube and they wanted to start using it for commercial purposes, Anthony said Rumblefish would work with the user to upgrade the license through the company’s existing commercial licensing service.

Rumblefish was founded in 1996 and licenses music for commercial use in television, film, video games, and brands. The company first rolled out an automated music licensing service in 2006, and first teamed up with YouTube in 2008, providing music for the online video community’s AudioSwap tool.

Trending on Xconomy