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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 ;-) 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 license sound effects“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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