The New York Times has reported on the rising cost of licensing intellectual property, noting that the asking price for licensing six seconds of a popular telephone ringtone for use in a documentary film was US$10,000 (eventually negotiated down to US$2,500). Overall, the documentary cost approximately US$500,000 to make, of which about US$170,000 were music licensing costs.

I’m all for compensating artists for using their works. But it’s clear that making low-budget films (particularly documentaries) is not necessarily so low-budget after all, particularly if the creators would like to make use, however fleeting, of clips of music, photographs, or other works protected by copyright.

This makes me think, should there be a sliding scale for licensing fees? Perhaps one based on the intended use of the licensed material, or on the profits received? Such a system might not be such a good deal for the rights holder. However, assuming that the high cost of IP has lead to people creating copyright works that infringe other works, it would be interesting to find out if cheaper licensing fees in certain situations might increase compliance with IP laws.