Back in the 1980s, Cheryl Cooper worked on the production side of the fence. She and her writer/director husband turned out hundreds of films, videos and corporate events for six different Fortune 500 companies. As producer, she was responsible for licensing the copyrighted material used in those projects. Which meant she learned — the hard way — how to be a buyer in a seller’s market.
After ten years went by without a vacation, CC decided that she enjoyed the Art of the Deal more than wrangling a cranky film crew at 5 A.M. at a tumbleweed farm in Texas or a jet engine factory in Bangor Maine.
She liked the tempo better.
By that time Cheryl had put together an enviable database of contacts — key rights-and-permissions people at major movie studios, record labels, talent agencies, music groups, broadcast companies, publishing companies, the NFL, MLB, even the Olympics Committee.
She was on a first-name basis with many of them. While they negotiated, she made them laugh; she made them empathize with the producer. In this tough-minded business, she had a completely new kind of touch.
In the 1990s, she launched her copyright-clearance business as a full-time enterprise. She had a unique résumé. Not only did she know the ins-and-outs of licensing intellectual property; she also understood the plight of the producer as well as the needs of copyright owners.
Those qualities — together with a warmth toward other people that is rare in any business — have won her the trust of allies on both sides of the table around the media world.
There have been days when she’s taken a call from Stockholm at 5 A.M. and a call from Singapore at 9 P.M. On one occasion — true story — she was asked by a European ad agency if she could contract Fidel Castro to endorse a cigar commercial. She politely turned the project down.
There have been other days when she made it possible for an inexperienced young filmmaker to get backdated rights for his entry in a film festival, and may have saved a career.
Cheryl runs this business with the help of a small band of elves. She seems to have been born to do what corporate Human Resources managers like to call multitasking. Whatever her clients ask, it’s all in a day’s work to her.
It’s a fact of life that corporate clients and media producers need quick answers to meet tight deadlines, and their budgets are usually limited.
It’s also a fact of life that copyright owners — Warner Brothers, Sony Entertainment, Paramount Pictures, Universal Studios — want to get top dollar for synchronization licenses. Artists also like to get paid for the use of their work.
So conflict is potentially part of the licensing process, by definition. That's why the job requires street-smart diplomacy.
Today we’re operating in a complex environment where copyright infringement can bring harsh penalties. The explosion of Web 2.0, piled on top of the moving target created by numerous copyright laws — and new interpretations of old legal rules of thumb such as “Fair Use” — add up to one thing: you can’t afford to make a mistake. You can't overlook any detail.
Obtaining the right to use a single property requires signed releases from all of its owners: composers, writers (often more than one), publishers, record companies, movie studios — and sometimes the heirs of a departed artist. When we do our work we overlook none of these things.
In the past decade, as the widespread use of existing songs, film and TV clips has soared in every medium and at every kind of venue, Cheryl and her elves have done a lot to streamline what has traditionally been a bewildering maze.
Yes, it is a seller’s market, and it’s a fact that “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” — after all, a well-known rock star once refused to grant permission to a U.S. President for the use of a song. But we have successfully negotiated asking fees down to a tenth of the original starting point.
Because we are a small shop, our fees are very reasonable.
So when you call us, your big copyright problem usually becomes an insignificant part of your workload.
If you take a look at our client testimonials, you will see why we have earned the trust of so many media producers, companies, and organizations.
Copyright © 2011 by Cheryl Cooper
Photos Copyright © 2008-2011 by Bill Gallery | All Rights Reserved
Website written and designed by Bill Warriner, Warriner Productions Inc.