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Punk forums and Twitter went aflutter Sunday night when the Minor Threat song “Minor Threat” was played on HBO’s Entourage. Given that big companies have a history of using Dischord stuff without permission, some assumed it went down like the Great Nike Copyright Infringement of 2005, or the Forever 21 T-shirt, or the Fox assholery over unauthorized use of “Salad Days.“
But nope, it was nothing like that, says Dischord’s Alec Bourgeois. “It’s not as juicy as it seems,” he says over email. “Minor Threat clears plenty of stuff—-some of it never runs, some of it does and no one notices.”
The Dischord spokesperson says “HBO actually asks all the time. What is more surprising is that they actually used it.”
The label has a reputation for turning down parties that ask to license its materials, but Bourgeois says it’s unfounded. The label simply “insist[s] on strict fairness and respect for the music.”
Don’t think about using a Minor Threat song in a killing-spree scene, for example, and be prepared to pay up. “The general policy is that we clear most independent productions as long as the context isn’t offensive or demeaning to the artist/song in some way. Major studio stuff gets a lot more scrutiny—-we insist on ‘most favored nations’ agreements—-which means if The Rolling Stones are getting $50,000 then so is the Dischord artist.” He adds, “each band has different criteria for what they do or do not accept—-Fugazi pretty much only works with indie productions, Minor Threat accepts more stuff but insists on clearing the context, etc. It’s a mixed bag.”
What do companies say when Dischord asks for fair pay? Sometimes they back off, sometimes they don’t. But “There is often a notion that independent artists should be kissing the ring of anyone willing to give them ‘exposure.’ The fact is that major studios often seek out ‘cool’ indie music because (1) it helps give street cred to their projects and (2) they have to pay next to nothing for it. Obviously we reject this notion.”