Licensing – obtaining permission to use material that is protected by copyright or other intellectual property rights — is a critical and fast-growing part of the day-to-day process of creating, distributing, and monetizing creative content.

Distribution and other content delivery services, from cable and satellite networks, to music streaming services, to over-the-top (OTT) video delivery services, have a surging demand for content to make available to their users, and much of this content is owned by third parties. This means the distribution services must obtain the necessary rights under a license agreement granted by the owner, and doing so on favorable terms requires experienced counsel.

Similarly, content producers also need experienced counsel for licensing matters. For example, the creative process sometimes includes incorporating elements of other creative works into new content, such as using “samples” in music product, synchronizing music in motion pictures, and displaying trademarks in a commercial tie-in, and these elements typically must be properly licensed.

The licensing process often is time sensitive and complicated with simultaneous negotiations among multiple rights owners. Whether you're a licensor or a licensee, successfully negotiating and closing a license agreement requires legal counsel with a deep understanding of copyright, trademark, and other intellectual property rights, proficiency with the constantly changing technology used to deliver content, and extensive experience in the marketplace.

Over the past 20 years we have successfully negotiated and closed license agreements for all types of content and for all types of uses, including “blanket” public performance licenses for distributing video content by traditional cable television as well as new digital delivery methods, synchronizations licenses, and licensing video programming to cable networks and over-the-top (OTT) video delivery services.

Digital Experience

We routinely advise clients on licensing matters relating to using entertainment content – including recorded music and motion pictures and other audiovisual productions – in digital products and distributing and monetizing content via the Internet and by other methods employing Internet Protocol (IP) technology. 

Our music industry work includes extensive digital experience. We advise content owners, aggregators, and digital distribution services, including streaming, downloading, and “locker” services, on business and copyright matters associated with using music content. In addition, we counsel “app”, interactive entertainment, and other software developers on music, technology, and copyright issues and help them secure the necessary rights for using recorded music in their projects.

The firm also works with services on the front line of deploying new digital distribution platforms for video content, including those offering over-the-top (OTT) and other delivery methods employing Internet Protocol (IP), and we also work with video content owners seeking to capitalize on the current shift in how video programming is experienced. We have extensive experience with the distribution agreements available for digital platforms – such as VOD, electronic sell-through (EST), streaming, and on-demand retention licenses (ODRLs) – and apply this experience to structure deals that maximize our clients’ priorities.

We have advised clients on, and negotiated and closed, a diverse range of matters and deals relating to licensing, including the following:

  • Licensing sound recordings and musical compositions for distribution and monetization by digital methods, including by means of downloading, streaming (including interactive, non-interactive, subscription, and advertising-supported services), “locker” (cloud-based) services, combinations of the foregoing (e.g., portable and non-portable, mixed use, and bundles with non-music product), and for use as part of user-generated content
  • “Sub-publishing” agreements for administering musical composition copyrights in foreign territories
  • Public performance licenses for music (musical compositions and, as applicable, sound recordings), including for digital music services, cable and television networks, and digital audiovisual distribution services. (For example “blanket” public performances from the performing rights organizations ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC to perform musical compositions publicly in the United States, which are required for most businesses that “publicly perform” musical compositions, such as broadcast radio stations, music streaming services, and clubs)
  • Licensing motion pictures and other audiovisual productions for distribution and monetization via the Internet and other services employing Internet Protocol (IP), including “over-the-top” (OTT) providers, multi-channel networks (MCNs), electronic sell-through (EST), “locker” (cloud-based) services, and streaming services (subscription and advertising supported)
  • Licensing motion pictures and other audiovisual productions for distribution and monetization via “traditional” methods, including by broadcast television and cable and satellite television networks
  • Licenses for “life story” rights
  • Licensing musical compositions, sound recordings, and other creative content, trademarks, and other intellectual property for use in motion pictures and other audiovisual productions and in software, such as interactive video games and “apps” (including “synchronization licenses”)
  • “Blanket” licenses for
    • music product catalogs, including music publishing, recorded music, and music video
    • video libraries, including motion pictures and other audiovisual productions
  • Licensing copyrights, trademarks, and “rights of publicity” for branding, endorsements, merchandising, and sponsorships
  • Licensing ancillary and incidental rights associated with motion pictures and other audiovisual productions, including merchandising, co-promotions, and marketing tie-ins
  • Licensing television “formats”
  • Licensing “grand rights” in musical compositions (such as for “musicals”)
  • Licenses included as part of the Terms of Service for Internet services and “apps”
  • Software development and license agreements
  • “Local version” license agreements for video game software and “apps”

The firm's licensing clients have included the following:

  • Recorded music companies, from start-ups to the “majors”
  • Music publishing companies
  • Cable and satellite television networks
  • Producers of motion pictures and other audiovisual productions
  • Software developers, including developers of interactive video games and “apps”
  • Internet services engaging in distributing and monetizing motion pictures and other audiovisual productions, and recorded music, including services for digital downloads, electronic sell-through, streaming, and mixed services
  • Internet services for user-generated content
  • Producers of ballets, musicals, and other works of performing art
  • Entertainers and other talent, including recording artists, DJs, and actors
  • Visual artists
  • Social media services and other Internet services
  • Creative agencies
  • Marketing companies
  • Merchandisers