Pro video blog…Produced by Philip Johnston DoP/Editor


lock_smAs a royalty free music business, we get asked many questions about copyright. There are numerous people that believe they can legally use up to 30 seconds of music without any legal repercussions and without having to seek clearance or a license.

Well, sorry to be the bearer of bad news…. This is simply not true and a bit of a modern myth.

Copyright law is complex and varies in different countries. US copyright law in particular, has a fair use clause, whereas here in the UK, there is no such clause.

This fair use copyright clause is misinterpreted by many who think that using up to 30 seconds of music is legal. The fact is that any use of music needs to be cleared or licensed. Even where copyright law includes a fair use policy the legal interpretation can vary considerably.

For instance, using a 10 second music clip as an intro to your podcast would probably not be classed as fair use, whereas using a 10 second snippet to critique a piece of music may be seen as fair use in copyright law. However, never assume you are covered by fair use copyright as there is no guarantee you will be safe.

I once heard an American music lawyer say… “When your use of music gets challenged you need a defence; having a license is always your best defence. If your defence is ‘fair use’ this will probably not be sufficient to save you in court.”

She went on to say that it is not worth the risk in nearly all cases.

A good rule of thumb is that it is not OK to use any amount of copyrighted music without permission from the rights owner or a music license. If you do feel fair use applies you will need to study the fair use guidelines for the copyright policy of your jurisdiction and to be completely sure you would need a music lawyer to confirm your belief for your particular circumstance.

In my opinion, it is going to be much easier, cheaper and less stressful to get royalty free music licenses from a reputable company.

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Many people are under the misconception that as long as music is not used for personal gain within a video then it’s fine to use… WRONG ! MCPS told me today if anyone wants to use copyright music on a video for online use they need to negotiate a price with that artists record label which could start from £1000 upwards.

YouTube are now excluding music from home made videos as they are not willing to pay the copyright fee. YouTube have recently struck an agreement to pay for the use of commercially made music videos eg. Those made by the record companies themselves.

I have been a long time campaigner (15 years) for production companies to pay a flat fee allowing us to use copyright music anytime we like but so far this has not happened.

I reckon if all the video production companies in the UK paid £250 a year it would rake in £1.25 million…that’s a lot of money to share between music producers and owners.

If for instance you are filming a wedding video you need to have a Limited Manufacture Licence now this licence starts from £8 allowing up to 5 DVD copies…plus you must have a PPL licence (Dubbing copyright music) costing £19.55.

To be completely legal for filming and copying 5 DVDs of a wedding is £27.55 and that still does not cover you for putting any part of the copyright music online.

Limited Manufacture Licence

PPL licence via the Institute of Videography;n=40

I get asked many times by corporate clients if they can use copyright music in their video, my stock answer is…” £1500 plus or copyright free music at zero cost”…copyright free wins every time.

There is actually no excuse these days for not using copyright free music as it’s far better than it used to be…here are some links to the ones I have used over the years…

Trackline Music

NotePad Music

AKM Music

Digital Juice



Having been working in the video business since 1988 I have amassed a great amount of knowledge of both the kit and production values over the last 30 years.

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