If you have ever watched The Ellen DeGeneres Show you know how integral music is to her programming. She loves to dance. According to court pleadings the production company has used over 1000 sound recordings without payment of the appropriate master use synchronization fee.
Several licenses and royalty streams are involved when music is played (live or recorded) on a TV show. The broadcasters/TV networks typically hold a blanket public performance license to pay the songwriters and publishers for the performance of the music. Two other licenses are typically also required: a musical composition synchronization license and a master use synchronization license.
In the case of the Ellen DeGeneres Show, the production company failed to secure the master use synchronization licenses. This is the license granted by the record label when a recording is played, not when there is a live performance by the band/artist. The fees for such a “master use” is typically the same amount that would be paid to the publisher/songwriter for the musical composition synchronization rights.
The NY Post article outlines the wrangling between the various record labels and Warner Bros. Entertainment (the show’s producer) to resolve the issue and collect the back-payments of royalties.
The case was filed September 9, 2009 in Nashville in the Middle District of Tennessee. 3:09-cv-00827 Arista Music v. Time Warner, Inc. Read the complaint here.