It’s really quite simple, know the law. You can’t use a piece of copyrighted music in your video. Period. No further discussion. Otherwise, there’s a heavy fee or a place in jail just waiting for you.
“But it’s just a small corporate video we’ll only show to our employees,” you say.
“It’s just a video we show at our trade shows,” you say.
“Well, it’s only a very short video we put up on our website and we’re a small company, so it shouldn’t really matter.”
No matter how long or how short the video is or how large or small the audience that will see it, all corporate or commercial videos are subject to copyright laws.
Removing risk and making your video legal is not difficult. Here are the things you should know.
Things to Know
- Assume that everything is copyrighted. The U.S. Copyright office receives 60,000 submissions for copyrights every day. Better safe than sorry.
- Licensing needledrop music is the safest and smartest way to legally use music in your video. You simply license the music that matches the feeling of your video, usually for a small fee. It’s amazing how many music libraries exist where you can quickly buy a license for use. You can go to ASCAP/BMI to license music for use in a corporate video project. ASCAP/BMI won’t invoice a production company; only a corporation, because that’s where most of the misuse originates.
- Know precisely how your video will be used. Licensing prices depend on all of the uses of your video, internally and externally. But, in today’s world you should just assume your video will end up on the Internet at some point, no matter the original intended use, so budget accordingly.
- Many people think that old music is free to use because it’s considered in the public domain. Don’t assume. The responsibility is all yours. If you think the music you want to use in your video is free of copyright requirements, check with The Public Domain Information Project to make sure, http://www.pdinfo.com/about-pd-info.php.
- No, never under any circumstances can you use a piece of music in your video, or even spoken words, that comes from a record or CD you purchased. You purchased that material for your personal use only.
- On that special project where you need a very special musical piece (for example, your entire video works because of one clip from “Flight of the Bumblebee”), you should go to BZ Rights, http://www.bzrights.com. They are experts in rights clearance for all kinds of materials, including recorded and sheet music. These folks know all the rules and will keep you out of a risky situation.
- If you license a piece of music in your video you may not use it in any other medium or in any other way than originally stated in the license you purchased. You do not own the music, but the specific use of that music stated in the license.
- Talk to your production company. If you make the decision to use copyrighted music in your video the production company will most likely have you sign a release to indemnify them from prosecution.
- Likewise, protect yourself from anyone who wants to force you to use music illegally; have them sign an indemnification form or letter outlining how you are not responsible for misuse of any music within the video you are helping or paying to create. This usually forces people to make a decision not to misuse the music; or if they do, you’re in the clear. Think like a lawyer.
They Do It, Why Can’t We?
“I see other companies using music they didn’t pay for, why can’t we?”
If you’re into taking risks and decide you won’t get caught, well so be it. But the consequences are really never worth even the smallest risk.
If you have questions about how to use music in your video, feel free to call us at (469) 484-9400. We’re happy to help.