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  • Copyright Laws

  • Dan

    April 7, 2005 at 7:19 pm

    Can you use copyrighted music under a certain length. I have a client who wants to use a copyrighted song for a 30 second spot. He said that it is fine to use as long as it’s 30 seconds or under.

    Does anyone know for sure on using copyrighted music?


  • Cowdog

    April 7, 2005 at 7:40 pm

    Where’s your friend? I’m gonna bite ‘im.

    He is DEAD WRONG. No such law exists.

    I’m going to keel-haul ‘im under the belly of the good ship Black Cow for givin’ ya such bad advice.

    Yer pal,


  • Dan

    April 7, 2005 at 7:54 pm

    That’s what I thought…..but wanted to check. Thanks.

  • Steve Roberts

    April 7, 2005 at 8:02 pm

    Cowdog is righteous on this one, as always.

    Contact the owner of the copyright and pay the fees if you want to use the song — it might not even be an option. If your client doesn’t want to do that, you should bail, or at least convince him/her to use stock music, for the applicable fee of course.

    Even if you make your client sign a piece of paper that holds you harmless for any legal action taken against your client, you might still be liable.

    Caveat: I’m not a lawyer, though I do occasionally use italicized latin words.


  • Kenneth Hahn

    April 7, 2005 at 9:23 pm

    This seems to be one of the single biggest, and most asked questions I have seen on here. There was recently a spool about this subject in the Demo Reels section, and also in the Premiere editing posts. I recently tried to search down how to do this properly and legally, and to my dismay found it to be difficult. I tried ASCAP… it pointed to HarryFox…. which said to go to BMI….. and so on. Isn’t there somewhere, someway to have a central clearing house where you can find at least the base info you need such as label and contact info? Maybe there is, and I just don’t know it yet. The song I was working on was Josh Grobin, You Lift Me Up.


  • Cowdog

    April 7, 2005 at 9:59 pm

    Unfortunately, Harry Fox Agency got out of the music licensing business and no one has jumped in to handle licensing of mainstream music like Josh Grobin. You must go direct to the label (in most cases) or the producer (who often has rights also) and either of them are going to charge you huge sums to use the music.

    Harry Fox Agency *used* to have agents with a vast pool of connections in the music world and so they could leverage their relationships and knowledge of the way things work to get you deals. Now, that is left to individuals who are now forced to deal directly with record companies and producres who, for the most part, really do not want to deal with this and therefore hit you high so you will go away and stop bothering them.

    And do not think that you can get your client to sign you a waiver of legal culpability as it does not work that way and there have been cases where getting a signed waiver only proved that you knew you were breaking the law.

    Sorry to bring you such a dry bone to chew on,

    Yer pal,


  • Randall Bennett

    April 7, 2005 at 10:16 pm

    So, no copyrighted music on reels? (educational fair use exemption maybe?) I have no problem using classical music (performed by our local high school, of course) but others might.

  • Jim Zito

    April 8, 2005 at 12:22 am

    As far as demo reels go, I think the safest and most creative way to go is to shell out a few bucks and buy Acid Pro, (or even cheaper Acid Music Studio). They’re super easy to use. That way you can cater your music EXACTLY to fit your reel and not worry about copyright issues at all!


  • kieran

    April 8, 2005 at 12:36 am

    Most classical music is long out of copyright, and so fair use doesn’t really come into it, though the mistake people often make is to assume that means you can use any recording of classical music you want, which is wrong. The performances themselves are copyright, so as long as you have the music recorded yourself you can use classical music legitimately.

    Waivers don’t stop you committing an infringement because the client has no power to exempt you from infringing – that’s the sole right of the copyright holder. However, you may be able to get your client to indemnify you against any losses that you suffer as a result of being sued for copyright infringement.

  • Clint Fleckenstein

    April 8, 2005 at 2:39 am

    The most profound post I’ve seen in the forums on this issue, as it applies to demo reels, is: “how would you feel if someone took your motion graphics work or demo reel and used it to the tune of their music?”

    You’d wanna throw ’em a beating. Music publishers have their lawyers do it for them.

    The 30 second thing probably comes from the Fair Use clause of the Copyright Act. That only applies to educators using a piece for instruction. That doesn’t cover any sort of public performance.


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