Music Rights – How do you get permission to use a song in your video or film?
Hi, I’m Gordon Firemark, and this is Asked and Answered, where I answer common entertainment law questions, so you can take your entertainment industry career and business, or just your hobby, to the next level.
So, in a previous Asked and Answered session, I talked about fans making cover videos and posting them on Youtube and Facebook.
And I explained that, when you include a musical composition (even your own recording of the song) in a video or film, you need special permission, called a Synchronization or Sync License from the owners of the copyright in that song.
So here’s how you get that license.
It’s actually pretty simple, conceptually.
You find out who owns the copyright,
You submit a request
You wait for an approval, called a “quote”
You agree to pay the required license fee in a written contract prepared by the copyright owner
And you’re set.
In practice, however this is a bit more complicated.
That’s because lots of songs are written by multiple songwriters. Collaborators. And, each of those songwriters might be represented by a different publishing company. And you need permission from all of them.
So, you’ve got to track down all those publishers so you can ask.
Now, a good place to start this is by looking at the liner notes for a recording of the song you’re using. Oh, wait, this is the 21st century, and you’re listening to an mp3 that doesn’t have liner notes, or on a streaming service… Again no liner notes.
So, first check out the source where you got the music in question, and see if it lists the names of the songwriters and their publishers. Then google those companies. OR, head over to ASCAP.com and BMI.com, and search their repertoires.
Then, contact each publisher, and request the permission for the use you have in mind.
Then you wait for the quote, and then the license agreement…. Which you have to read, and understand, and comply with its terms…
And that’s how you clear music rights.
More work than you thought, huh?
This is why TV shows and Film Production Companies have staffers who do this stuff for them. Most shows and films have a music supervisor who helps find the music, and identifies the owners, and then a lawyer or paralegal or other executive will handle the actual licensing.
For a film project, or a TV show, that makes sense, But for your typical YouTube or Facebook video… It’s probably overkill. Maybe you’d be better off using some original music you wrote, or a track from a royalty-free source.
That’s it for this session of Asked and Answered. Submit your entertainment law questions at
See you next time.