According to The Sun, the two-minute use of Gary Glitter’s 1972 track Rock and Roll Part 2 in a key scene from Joker, which falls under a sync license, could earn the convicted pedophile “hundreds of thousands of pounds “. He will make money, but maybe not as much as we think.
Two sets of rights must be released and paid for here – one covering sound recording and another for song editing/composition.
“The local business [that placed it in the film] maybe withhold 20% to 30% of the fee,” says a music lawyer and synchronization expert, who asked to remain anonymous. “Of the rest, the local record company in the UK could take 60%. So Glitter could get maybe 30% of the fee from the recording side and probably less from the publishing side, because it’s a co-writing [with Mike Leander] and because the publisher also takes a share.
The finances are more convoluted than the red headlines suggest, but they pale in comparison to the ethical conundrum.
“It’s really the music supervisor’s job to do their due diligence,” says Cliff Fluet, a partner at law firm Lewis Silkin. “In the United States, they literally wouldn’t have a clue, or even care, about Gary Glitter.”
The song has different contextual associations in the United States, having long been used in sports games, [known colloquially as The “Hey!” Song due to its chant] to entertain the spectators. He is far removed from his association in the UK with a convicted paedophile.
For record labels and publishers, there’s likely to be a hard business decision underpinning all of this. But should people convicted of crimes continue to make money from their intellectual property? In other words, copyright does not end if someone serves their sentence. Phil Spector, a convicted murderer, continues to make money with River Deep – Mountain High and Be My Baby, while Glitter continues to make money with Hello by Oasis, due to its Hello! Good morning! I’m back.
It can’t be assumed that this is news for Team Joker. Someone along the licensing chain should have raised the alarm. How they morally reconcile all of this with Glitter to get the money is up to them. But, ultimately, to expect Hollywood or the music industry to value ethics more than revenue reveals a fragile understanding of the history of the two.