Ask Abbie – I Need A Song For A Video, Can I Use Any Song Without Violating Copyright Law?

I Want To Incorporate A Song In A Scholarship Video Contest. Is There Anyway To Do So Without Violating Copy Right Laws? If Not, Can I Find Songs Similar To The One I Want?

Abbie’s Reply…

Abbie Stancato of Rockin' God's HouseYou cannot use a song which has been published, or under Copyright without permission. Incorporating a song into a video is called “Synchronization Rights.” You must contact the publisher, and/or copyright owner of the song for permission. Unfortunately, I’ve never known a publisher offer permission without remuneration.

If you wanted to record a song written by another artist or band, you can do so without permission of the original copyright owner. It’s called a Compulsory License. Furthermore, the Copyright Office has set a maximum price you are required to pay the publisher(s) of the song for each unit you license to sell. The current rate is 9.1 cents, or 1.75 cents per minute of playing time, or fraction thereof, whichever is greater. You have the right to negotiate a lower rate. However, if you are an unknown artist… You WILL pay the full compulsory rate!

However, Synchronization Rights have no maximum set rate or compulsory rate, it’s completely negotiable. The owner of a song could request any amount they desire. My sister once requested the use of the song, “Sitting At The Dock Of The Bay” to use with a promotional video for a small city in Florida, which she produced. The publisher requested $50,000! Much more than the cost of the video and her entire marketing budget!

However, you have an alternative… Creative Commons – It’s a place to get music for your project without cost. Additionally, Google “Stock Music.” There are companies which offer music for projects similar to yours… usually for a small licensing fee. You won’t find music on the “Top 40” charts, but music to fit your project and spice it up.