Right, you had a question. Keep in mind the words of Thomas Jefferson: "How much pain have cost us the evils that have never happened." While you imagine the ultimate end-scenario -- TV-show attorneys gloat over the huge cash verdict they've inflicted on you -- the reality is far more complex. We've put together this table with our guesstimates as to the likelihood (based only on our anecdotal information and personal experiences):
Odds of Happening
|Someone associated with the 20-year old TV show will hear your track.|| |
1% or less. Considering the zillions of tracks out there, it’s highly unlikely anyone will hear your track unless you have a reasonable hit.
|The person hearing the track will recognize the sample as coming from the 20-year old TV show.|| |
50% or less. We haven’t heard your track but you state the sample is heavily effected, making it harder to recognize.
|The person will care enough to investigate.|| |
25% or less. Usually copyright owners don’t get worked up about a single quote from a show. However, there are exceptions for superstars (and of course, if you’re a superstar, you can afford to deal with all this.)
|After investigating, the copyright owner of the 20-year old TV show determines that its worth engaging an attorney to stop your use|| |
50% or less. Just getting the attorney on the phone is at least $300. So there has to be a substantial concern to contact an attorney over a single quote used on a recording.
|The attorney who is engaged writes a cease and desist letter asking you to stop and for some arbitrary payment.|| |
75% or less. Once engaged, it’s no big deal to write a C&D letter. But anybody can make demands. Your attorney may advise you have a good defense and suggest blowing off the demands, or alternatively reaching a peaceful settlement -- perhaps you stop distribution, destroy existing copies and pay a few thousand dollars (if any money).
|You blow off the letter and the attorney decides to file a lawsuit.|| |
25% or less. It’s $5,000 to $10,000 just to file a lawsuit. Chances are the other side won’t want to risk the suit with this minor an infringement. Alternatively, they may investigate you and determine your pockets are not deep enough to pursue.
|A lawsuit is brought and you lose.|| |
50%. You never know how things will go with a fair use or “de minimis” claim in court but you’ve got a decent shot with these facts.
|After you lose, the court awards your house and inheritance to the owner of the 20-year old TV show.|| |
15% or less. The punishment has to fit the crime and if you didn’t make much money, a reasonable judge won’t likely hit the big buzzer for statutory damages. You keep the home and inheritance.
Bottom line dept. We agree with Joseph Heller -- “Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't after you.” But we also don't want interesting art to be unfairly sideswiped. Yes, it's always possible that something bad will happen based on your release, but we think the odds are on your side.