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Published on March 15th, 2011 | by PSE

Sound Effects Licensing Exposed: the “Royalty-Free” vs. “Buyout” Myth (1 of 10)

After my last post enti­tled “3 Little-Known Facts About Royalty-Free Sound Effects Licens­ing”, we @prosoundeffects received a num­ber of pings, calls and emails (includ­ing one attempted morse code mes­sage icon wink Sound Effects Licensing Exposed: the Royalty Free vs. Buyout Myth (1 of 10) request­ing fur­ther clar­i­fi­ca­tion. The one ques­tion that came up very often and I will attempt to address, sim­plify and expose in this post has to do with the def­i­n­i­tion of pro sound effects licensing Sound Effects Licensing Exposed: the Royalty Free vs. Buyout Myth (1 of 10)“royalty-free” vs. “buy­out” sound effects. So here you go – I’m call­ing this “Sound Effects Licens­ing Exposed: the ‘Royalty-Free’ vs. ‘Buy­out’ Myth (1 of 10)” This is the first our of 10 “Sound Effects Licens­ing Exposed” posts I’ll be mak­ing. Keep the ques­tions, com­ments and mus­ings and morse code com­ing!

(Exam­ple:) Sound Effects User X asks:

“Aren’t “royalty-free” and “buy­out” licens­ing the same? Can’t I use the sound effects library I ‘buy’ how­ever I want and with whomever I want? What is the dif­fer­ence, if any  between ‘royalty-free’ and ‘buyout’ ?”

“Roy­alty Free” vs. “Buy­out”– The Exposed Version:

Words, words, terms + terms and words. Most sound effects users know that when you pay for or “buy” a sound effects library, it comes with “royalty-free” rights for use by a sin­gle, indi­vid­ual user. This indi­vid­ual user is then licensed in per­pe­tu­ity to use the sound effects “in synch” with other audio­vi­sual media for appli­ca­tions such as film, tele­vi­sion, etc (see our Sound Effects Licens­ing Guide). We often hear peo­ple con­fus­ing their “royalty-free” license with “buy­out” rights, prob­a­bly because the user feels she or he is “buy­ing” the library and there­fore can use it in any method of choos­ing, with as many peo­ple as needed on any media pro­duc­tion (in fact the user is just pur­chas­ing right granted in the IEULA). More sim­ply, many peo­ple think “buy­out” means pay once and use as much as you can within your orga­ni­za­tion. This is incor­rect – a myth built on assump­tive logic if your will. In my opin­ion, this is not the fault of the sound effects user, rather it is the respon­si­bil­ity of the sound effects pub­lisher to edu­cate the user. To date the dis­tinc­tion between “buy­out sound effects” and “royalty-free sound effects has been unclear and poorly com­mu­ni­cated (if at all) by many sound effects publishers.

The All-You-Can-Eat Buf­fet Analogy:

By equat­ing “royalty-free” with “buy­out” it is very much the same as going to an “all-you-can-eat” buf­fet, pay­ing for one meal once, and bring­ing every fam­ily mem­ber with you to dine every time you go to that amaz­ingly cheap yet deli­cious buf­fet. Buf­fet restau­rants (hello NAB Las Vegas, yes we’ll see you in April SL1862) do not work like this and nei­ther does the indi­vid­ual end user license when you “buy” a sound effects library. The term “royalty-free” applies to your usage as an indi­vid­ual, but if you make media with 2 or more peo­ple access­ing or using sound effects in your pro­duc­tion process, you’ll need a Multi-User Sound Effects License. This is the way to ensure all users have true royalty-free usage rights.

At Pro Sound Effects, we con­sider our­selves Library & Licens­ing spe­cial­ists (if not vet­er­ans!). Any appli­ca­tion, issue, 3D vir­tual world – you name it, we can help with you the libraries and sim­ple, single-source licens­ing to max­i­mize your sonic cre­ations! So talk to us – sign up Free Library & Licens­ing Con­sul­ta­tion and have an expert walk you through all the options.

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