Category Archives: Photography

Top 15 songs for Thanksgiving Projects

Wedged between Halloween and Christmas projects,  media creation for Thanksgiving can often feel rushed.  If you’re working on a Thanksgiving presentation or ad campaign, whether setting scenes for the holiday feast, the parade, the church service or the big football game, we have a soundtrack that will lift your project and strike just the right tone.

The following soundtracks will contribute a heartfelt and hopeful mood to your Thanksgiving production.

Also listen to:

Premium Stock Music for Film, TV, Advertising and Interactive. Editor-selected, Easy Search, Fast Results UniqueTracks has a vast library of music loops and grooves plus a large selection of classical production music available for licensing into your production.

How to best use stock media in your production

UT0403_product-01Stock media companies provide ready-made media content that can be legally added to your work in a matter of minutes.

What is Stock Media? – Stock Media includes photographs, illustrations, video footage, music recordings, sound effects, Flash animations, website templates, PowerPoint backgrounds, and clipart.

Many stock music companies refer to themselves as libraries because, like a library, they carry a broad array of materials that tries to satisfy a wide range of tastes and needs.

Licensed Not Sold – With stock media, what you are really buying is a license that gives you permission to use the material you’re interested in.

Once you have a license you don’t, in fact, own the material. It is still owned by the stock media company. They remain the copyright holders. Your license lets you legally use the material in your production.  There are two main types of stock licenses.

  1. Rights Managed – The price of a Rights Managed license depends on how you wish to use the media you’re interested in.  For instance, is it going to be used in a national advertising campaign or is it for your company brochure?  Is it being considered for a PowerPoint presentation or is it going to be used in a motion picture?  Each usage has a different price.A Rights Managed license also takes into consideration how long you will use the media. Periods usually range from 3 months to several years.  If you are going to include the material in a product, your license will be based on how many pieces you plan to manufacture.  With a right managed license, at the end of the license period, you no longer have permission to use the media. Your relationship with the company ends (unless you extend your license).
  2. Royalty Free – Royalty free means you are not charged a fee for each separate commercial use of the media. You can use the material as often as you’d like for as long as you’d like. You pay an initial fee for the license and are then free and clear of any further licensing restraints. Licensing is fast and easy, with one price you acquire synchronization rights to use the music as background music in your production.

A Rights Managed license is more expensive Why? Usually, the production values for Rights Managed media is higher.  The media has more of a professional sheen than royalty free media.  Also, in some cases, for instance, a Rights Managed photo, the stock company will remove the photo from circulation for the period of your license.  No one else can use it.

This is a huge advantage for Rights Managed licenses. It protects against simultaneous use – so your competitor won’t be using the same photo as you to launch their ad campaign. When you use royalty free content, there is no such protection. The same photo or music track may be being used by hundreds of companies at the same time.

The question to ask is…is this important to me? Do I care if another company is using this image or this particular web template? If you do, then you will want to pursue a Rights Managed solution. If on the other hand, it really doesn’t matter to you, then you’ll want to take a serious look at royalty free media because it is so much cheaper.

Stock by any other name – Rights Managed recordings are also known as “needle-drops” in the stock music world. This name came from the days of actually lowering a phonograph needle onto a record to place the music into a production. With compact discs in the 1980s, it started to be called a “laser-drop”.   Both terms are confusing.  I find Rights Managed to be a much better description.

Royalty free is sometimes called “buy out”. I’ve also seen it referred to as “copyright-free” but this is really an error. The material is in fact fully copyrighted by the stock media company.

UniqueTracks is a stock music company that offers Rights Managed licensing.  This means each license is written for your exact usage.  We began licensing stock music in 1998.  For more information about our recordings and music licensing packages, please visit us at

Richard Prince and the Art of Fair Use

In a world where it has become incredibly easy to make exact copies of others work, when, if ever, does that work become your own?

This is the overriding question in a New York Times article, published on December 6th, entitled If the Copy Is an Artwork, Then What’s the Original?.

The article, written by Randy Kennedy, is about the working methods of the artist
Richard Prince. Mr. Prince’s art is currently being celebrated in a 30-year retrospective at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City.

One of the methods Mr. Prince uses to create his art is to take photographs of other existing photographs that he finds published as advertisements in magazines.

The strength of the art is that the images he photographs, once removed from their function as advertisements, comment on our culture showing us archetypical images of our society – images that Madison Avenue ad execs have learned have great power. One of Prince’s favorite co-opted images is the Marlboro Man.

But it seems some of Mr. Prince’s photographs are nothing more than enlargements of existing photos. Mr. Prince has done little more than make the decision that the image matches his artistic sensibility. He then calls his enlargement of the existing photo his work and sells that work for increasingly high dollar values. In fact, one of his Marlboro Man pictures set an auction record for a photograph selling for 1.2 million.

The NY Times article centers around Jim Krantz, a successful commercial photographer who took several of the Marlboro Man ad photos “appropriated” by Mr. Prince. One Prince photograph, which sold at Christie’s for $332,300, is an exact duplicate of Mr. Krantz’s original except that it has been blown up to a huge size. Mr. Krantz says, “there’s not a pixel, there’s not a grain that’s different.”

Jim Krantz was paid by the Philip Morris Company for the original photos but has received nothing from Richard Prince. To date, Krantz has asked for no monetary compensation. He is asking for some type of acknowledgment or credit as the original photographer. After all, it’s not just the photo itself, it’s the composition – the conception, the pose, the exact moment to capture – these things were decided by Krantz and re-used by Richard Prince.

The matter provides a stunning look at the challenges facing interpretations of the Fair Use statute within US copyright law. The NY Times article says…

Mr. Krantz, who has shot ads for the United States Marine Corps and a long list of Fortune 500 companies including McDonald’s, Boeing and Federal Express, said he had no intention of seeking money from or suing Mr. Prince, whose borrowings seem to be protected by fair use exceptions to copyright law.

My interest concerns whether Mr. Prince’s use of other people’s photographs truly qualifies as fair use. Here is the law….
In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include:
(1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
(2) the nature of the copyrighted work;
(3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
(4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.
The fact that a work is unpublished shall not itself bar a finding of fair use if such finding is made upon consideration of all the above factors.

(1) clearly, Richard Prince’s art is of a commercial nature.
(2) a photograph is a copyrightable work.
(3) in some cases, it appears that Prince has used 100% of the copyrighted work.
(4) this is the main issue – the effect upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work – when an ad campaign is over, do the elements of the campaign, the photo, the copy, do they have any further value? Has the use by Prince harmed the further value of the photograph? This would be the crux of any fair use challenge.

Mr. Krantz said it best, “If I italicized ‘Moby Dick’, then would it be my book? I don’t know. But I don’t think so.”

Though Jim Krantz owns the copyright to most of his photographs, he no longer owns the copyright to the Marlboro Man photos. The Philip Morris Company, the maker of Marlboro cigarettes, owns the copyright. Any fair use challenge to Richard Prince’s art would have to initiate from Philip Morris.
UPDATE: A year later, in December 2008, Richard Prince would lose a copyright infringement suit when the judge ruled his use of photographs by Patrick Cariou was not Fair Use as outlined by copyright law.
UPDATE: Just want to reference this very good article which was published in the Wall Street Journal, March 25, 2011, entitled When Appropriation Masquerades as Reconceptualized Art. The writer, Eric Felten, reports on the Patrick Cariou vs Richard Prince/Gagosian Gallery copyright infringement case which involved Prince’s use of photographs from the book “Yes, Rasta,” by French photographer Patrick Cariou. Cariou spent six years taking pictures of Rastafarians in Jamaica. Prince lost the case.

Copyright law for Photographers

While reading Geetesh Bajaj’s Powerpoint blog on his excellent Indezine website, I came across a Powerpoint presentation that I think would be useful to all media producers who struggle with copyright and licensing issues.

The powerpoint presentation deals exclusively with copyright infringement as it pertains to photography and is the work of PACA (the Picture Archive Council of America ). It lays out the basic copyright law but it is the case studies that are included that really make this document worth your time. You get to see actual infringement cases, what the infringement charges were, and you can see side-by-side, the actual photograph and the infringement photograph. Other points…there is no fixed % an image can be changed to avoid infringement. That is a common myth that circulates within design studios.

The presentation deals with Fair Use, the DMCA (Digital Millenium Copyright Act), ISP Safe Harbor and the public domain. All in all, it’s a really good document to know about if you are ever unsure about your usage of a photo or any other work which you want to use but don’t own the rights to.

A good take-away from this presentation that I would emphasize is that often permission and licensing is easily obtainable directly from the source. In other words, instead of going into competition against a photographer, by recreating a photo (the composition), it is cheaper in the long run to contact the creator and obtain permission to create a derivitive work.

The PACA presentation can be downloaded here

So is it stock music or royalty free music?

The three most popular phrases used to describe the offerings of music production libraries like UniqueTracks are:

  • royalty free music
  • stock music
  • buy-out music

Of the three, the most accurate, to me, is stock music because it implies a collection of media that is immediately available to be used in a media production.

However, the phrase most often used to describe our services is royalty free music. The majority of new visitors to our website reach us through some type of search that includes the term “royalty-free”. Unfortunately, this term is fraught with misconceptions.

This is mainly because royalty-free music contains the word free. I get a lot of inquiries that go something like this:

  • by royalty free music, you mean ‘free’ music, don’t you?
  • do you know where I can get some ‘free’ royalty-free music?
  • royalty free music means ‘copyright free’ doesn’t it?

The three questions above highlight common misconceptions about what production music libraries do.

Production Music Libraries
Companies like UniqueTracks are in business to provide a fast and economical way for you to acquire the legal rights you need to use our tracks as background music in your own work. The simple online purchase of a royalty free music track immediately grants you the Synchronization and Master Use rights that you need to legally use the track in your production (what are master use and sync licenses?).

Music licensing is really our main product. For instance, when you purchase a stock music track from UniqueTracks, you are paying for a license that grants you a set of usage rights. This license comes directly from us, the publisher and owner of the recorded master tracks (some very large production music libraries are actually more like “brokers” for many different music publishers).

Public Performances and Performance Rights
When their music is used as background music in a television program, even businesses that advertise as “royalty free” music companies still require producers to file cue sheets with performance rights organizations like ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC so their composers and publishers can receive performance royalties (payments) from the broadcast.

How is this royalty free? Good question. The truth is, the music isn’t royalty free for television broadcast use. This is usually explained in the company’s license agreement in the section titled Public Performances. No doubt, it adds to the confusion surrounding this term. But it’s the industry standard.

The following phrases are, to me, more accurate descriptions of what a production music library really offers:

  • One-Stop Music Licensing
  • Quick and Easy Music Licensing
  • Budget Music Licensing.
  • Music Licensing with Wide Usage Rights

One-Stop Music Licensing
If you’ve ever had the experience of licensing a popular music track, you know just how hard and expensive it can be to finally get the clearances necessary to actually use the track. You first have to locate and then negotiate Master Use rights from the record company that owns the recorded master (no easy thing for some tunes). You also have to locate and pay for a synchronization license from the music’s publisher.

Quick and Easy Music Licensing
Production Music Libraries exist to simplify the process. You can obtain Master Use and Sync licenses with the simple click of a mouse.

Budget Music Licensing
Prices are targeted at smaller production companies like independent film producers, video production companies, and multimedia producers. Stock Production Music Libraries fill the niche for media producers who want successful soundtracks but don’t have million dollar budgets to acquire the latest pop tracks.

Music Licensing with wide usage rights
Once licensed, you can use the music in perpetuity with a worldwide territory right letting you sell your production across the globe with no further fees due.

I’ve also found that many people’s perception of anything “royalty-free” is something of limited or even bad quality.

Admittedly, the royalty free music of the past did have a one-dimensional, cheesy quality to it. It mainly served the corporate video market of the late 1980s through the 1990s. The music was created mainly on synthesizers with a very upbeat feel and was incorporated into in-house presentations meant to inspire employees to better performance, to meet sales goals, etc. The musical arrangements had a lot of glitz and over-the-top electronic effects and were anything but subtle. This style really has no use for today’s media producers except maybe in some comical retro or kitschy way (the big ’80s!).

Until recently I used to call this style the “Weather Channel Sound” because it reminded me of the background music used by the 24-hour cable weather channel. Their music soundtracks have greatly improved though in the past few years. I’ve even heard tracks from Kind of Blue by Miles Davis accompanying my local forecast.

Sadly I still do hear this overly glitzy style of music in a lot of telephone on-hold message programming. Is this supposed to make me feel good while on hold?

So why do we use the phrase royalty free music on the UniqueTracks website? The main reason is that it is still the most searched for the phrase for our type of service. And the term does apply to some of the usage rights granted under our license agreement.

Our music is royalty free because in all cases except TV broadcast, you won’t pay any further license fees once you obtain the initial license. You can use the music in as many products, videos, multimedia projects as you wish. You can sell a product, like a DVD, that incorporates our tracks as background music without any further financial obligation whether you sell 1 copy or 100,000 copies.

The main benefit of licensing music this way is that you have covered yourself legally – you have licensed the music and can now legally use it as part of your own work. Remember, when creating any type of media production – if you don’t create the content personally or in-house,
you have to license the content to be able to incorporate it into your project. This is true of photos, video footage, music or any other audio. If you haven’t created it in-house, you need some type of license or release to use it in your work.

Music Production Libraries offer fast and affordable one-stop licensing letting you get on with the other creative aspects of media production.