Broadcast license misadventure

Hello my fellow authors!

I wanted to share something that recently happened to me with you guys, and see what are your thoughts on this.

So, I sold a 1 million broadcast license at the beginning of the month. I hate getting those. While a “double” sale is always nice, I can’t help but feel like I’m getting ripped off, when I get 20 bucks for TV air time.

This one million broadcast license should be the rarest type as it should concern rural parts of the US and very small countries only. And yet, most of the broadcast licenses I sell are… yes, you guessed it right, 1 million broadcast licenses. So I find this a bit odd and I’ve grown suspicious of those licenses.

Anyway, back to that sale. I googled the buyer and found it was a major media company in Scandinavia. Hum… A week or so later, Tunesat informed me that my track was being played on a given channel in Finland. Googled that channel and found it’s a national channel with a potential reach of over 5 millions.

I immediately contacted Envato’s support about this issue. I had a similar issue a few years ago, and support was able to assist, so I had good hopes. A few days later Envato replied. They had contacted the buyer who had replied that my music was being played during shows whose audience did not cross the million threshold. And so, for Envato this is the end of this.

At first, I was dumbfounded. What? Envato doesn’t even know their own license terms? How can they not tell the buyer he’s making a mistake in the interpretation of those terms, as it is clearly stated the key figure is the potential reach and not the actual audience. So I wrote back, a bit pissed, telling them just that? How can you not know your own policies?!

They replied with a link to the tos essentially saying “This license is between the author of the Item and you (buyer). Envato Pty Ltd is not a party to this license or the one giving you the license.

So, it’s not that they don’t know the license terms, it’s that they don’t care those terms are getting breached or not, and are not willing to do anything to enforce them! They concluded their mail with a feel free to deal with this yourself.

So, I had to contact the buyer myself, and try to work it out on my own. This makes me look petty and like a beggar. I hate that! I tried to explain to the buyer where he misunderstood the terms. Buyer is saying he thinks he got the correct license and is incompetent in this legal imbroglio and thus is forwarding the matter to his legal department.

And so here I am, waiting for this legal department, if they ever come back to me. Having to defend terms made by Envato, on my own, with no legal counsel of course.

I feel completely abandoned, let down and betrayed by Envato. I know it’s a company, they’re not here to make nice but to make money. I got that. But why do they try so hard to act so badly?

So that’s my story. Now, I’m turning to my fellow authors and ask you guys three questions.

First, do you have any advice on how to go about this matter. Should I just let it slide? After all, fighting for a 100 bucks is a bit petty indeed.

Second, where you guys aware of Envato’s policy not to enforce license terms and to let authors on their own on these issues? What do you guys think about this? Are you guys ok with paying such a high fee and not get any protection whatsoever?

And third what is your opinion on the 1 million broadcast license? Do you think it really serves a purpose? How often do you get those compared to other broadcast licenses?

Thanks for reading!

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I get where you’re coming from. However, if the commercial was only airing during low-traffic periods, and the company looked at the past records of traffic numbers during that time to select the right license, couldn’t they argue that their estimated ‘potential reach’ was in fact less than 1mill, as their records show such numbers for that time slot?

Direct quote from the FAQ:
“Please note this may vary depending on your location and target market. In some places, this audience size measure is similar to the broadcast DMA.”

Wouldn’t that, in turn, mean that, in some places, the audience size measure may NOT be similar to the broadcast DMA? Which implies, that a company doesn’t necessarily have to use the potential reach of the entire channel as their estimate for the reach of their commercial?

Just my thoughts on this specific matter. Not sure who’s at fault, but I wanted to point out this side of the argument, which could be completely wrong.

If this is how Envato is seeing it, I can see why they aren’t looking into it further. I’ve had them look into licenses that need upgrading to cover the audience size, and have had good results from their support.

Hey @MorningLightMusic, thanks for replying.

This is exactly what the client is arguing indeed. And I understand his point.

However, he is misunderstanding the term “potential reach” as it’s understood in Envato’s terms, as it has nothing to do with how large an audience they can hope to get, but rather with how many people can have access to this channel.

Well the broadcast licenses are based on numbers. Those numbers have to be defined. The definition cannot be change however it suits the buyer. The “some places” sounds to me like Envato knowing it’s addressing the whole world and not every country is using DMA as measure. The way I read it is “if you know what DMA is, then that’s what you have to base yourself on.” Other than that I don’t see how the rules could be different depending on who the buyer is.

Now, maybe I’m wrong and I’m the one who does not understand what potential reach means. If this is the case, that means the licenses terms are badly formulated and too vague for me to comprehend. Me and how many others?

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I had similar issue with big campaign in TV. In my country. That’s how I found it. And they bought proper license after that (with refund of previously bought lower license).

Thanks for your input @RedOctopus, glad you could resolve it!

Did you go through Envato support, or did you contact the buyer directly? Did the buyer say why they got the wrong license? Was their understanding of audience size incorrect?

Edit: just saw the other thread

Right. That’s the key question.

Personally, I would have thought that the potential audience is how many people are likely to watch, rather than how many people can watch. I mean, if everyone invites 100 people round their house to watch, the potential audience could be 7 billion… if it’s done by how many people can watch it. And if it was just done by how many people can watch it, then the Superbowl ads wouldn’t cost 10 or 100 times more than a regular ad at that time. The way I see it… the ‘potential’ audience at 8pm is a lot higher than the potential audience at 4am. Even if it’s the same tv channel.

Indeed it looks like it. This is crazy, we shouldn’t need to guess what Envato means when they say words!

Depending on how you understand the terms, different licenses may apply, resulting in huge amount of money lost for Envato en authors. This is not serious!

Thanks for your input @SpaceStockFootage!

So it looks like my understanding of the term is not as universal as I thought among the author community.

I have to say I’m not convinced by your example, or I failed to grasp your point.

I don’t think that’s right. You’re talking about the actual audience, or the “expected audience” if you will. Not who has the potential to see it.

Can someone from staff (@matthewcoxy maybe?) clarify what “potential reach” actually means?

If I am indeed wrong in my interpretation, then I find it disturbing and reckless that Envato support would tell me to pursue this on my own, as well as give me the buyers contact info, instead of telling me I’m wrong and there’s absolutely no case there.

I just don’t care. Sale is a sale. If i had to track every sale on license violation i’d need a whole department for this. My job is to make music.

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I’ve asked Envato about that months ago and they replied:

When choosing the license you need to consider the intended audience size is for the production, meaning the maximum number of people the Broadcast has the potential to reach.

And after my second question (to be 100% sure):

Yes, we’re talking about all assumed/potential audience the broadcast can reach.

I’d say the potential audience and the expected audience is the same thing, even though the dictionary definition does lean more towards what you feel it should be. I mean, by some logistical miracle, the potential audience size of anything is 7 billion, but the actual audience, or expected audience… is never actually going to be that high.

Seeing that it’s industry standard to charge more for commercials during shows, provide higher or lower budgets for shows, pay cast and crew based on expected audience rather than potential audience… I think that should be the way to go.

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… So, I’m right in my interpretation? Or am I misreading still?..

I’m not entirely sure where you’re coming from with your 7 billions figure. Are you saying that because of new technologies, anyone from anywhere can access any shows? If so, sure… but that’s besides the point.

Sure, why not. I’m not debating what the way to go should be. I’m asking what figure actually is the correct one. This shouldn’t be a matter of opinion or guesses. It should be crystal clear.

I thought it was pretty clear, but after posting this thread, it seems it’s not as clear cut as I thought it was.

Your points make sense, but how do you interpret Envato’s reply to RedOctopus above?

My point is that if we stick rigidly to the definition of the ‘potential’ audience, then it is physically possible that the entire population of the world, could pop round for a cup of tea to everyone in the country where the track is played on tv… thus the tv show or commercial having 7 billion viewers.

It’s so unlikely that it’s never, ever going to happen, but there is the potential for that to happen… no matter how unlikely it may be. Why did I bring it up, if it’s so unlikely to happen? Because there’s no real grey area between something having the potential to happen and not… it has the potential to happen or it doesn’t. That’s if we’re going with your interpretation of the word potential, and to be fair, probably the dictionary definition as well.

Like FOX in the US. The highest viewing figure ever is 172,000,000 people during this year’s Superbowl. Is it fair that somebody has to buy a 10 million broadcast license (or a 100 million broadcast license if one existed) because that channel has the potential to get that many viewers, even if the show is on at 4am and there’s never been more than 1m viewers during that slot?

That’s why I feel it should be the likely or expected number of viewers that constitutes the potential.

Fair points, I don’t disagree with your logic. But in my opinion, this is not what is written in the license terms.

So please will someone from Envato’s staff (@matthewcoxy @EricSchwartz @KingDog @scottwills) give us a definite answer on what constitute “potential reach”?

Is it the actual/expected/likely/hoped for audience?

Or is it the number of people who have the potential/ are able to access the broadcast?

Your best bet for any license question is to open a help ticket -

They are the experts. Anything I say is as good as pulling a cheese sandwich out of a hat :smiley:

Fair enough! I know it’s not your area of expertise, but had to try. Was hoping for Eric to maybe chime in, being the expert on this (right?).

I think this is knowledge crucial to the community that should be crystal clear for all of us.

Anyway, thanks for the tip and for at least acknowledging this post. Will hit support.


I had always assumed licenses were based on potential viewership, not “projected”. To me, that meant, for example, that pretty much any major US metropolitan area would qualify for a 10 Million license. Here’s where it gets absurd: Looking at the numbers in this linked article, the biggest US national news outlets don’t average even 1 million viewers at any given time. So basically, CNN or MSNBC or Fox, if they choose, can license nationally broadcast tracks for $39, depending on the time slot? Ouch.

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Hey, thanks for your input @EightBallAudio!

This is how I’ve always understood it as well. And I agree that pricing would be inconsistent if it 's not the case.

Glad I’m not the only one to understand “potential reach” as potential instead of projected. This shows that there is indeed an issue with how this part of the license FAQ is formulated.

I have contacted support, after @KingDog told me they were the experts and the only ones who could help me. Well… they said I was right in their first reply, then said the exact opposite in their second reply when I asked for confirmation. They didn’t seem to realize it either, which is a bit worrying to say the least. They finally agreed the term were a bit vague and forwarded it to a higher tier. So I’m waiting for a third reply, hoping this one won’t be useless. This is completely reckless and careless from Envato!