The popular thing to do these days is to shoot a video, whether it be a wedding or just something for your own personal fun, and to sync it with the latest popular song on the radio. Chances are, you will do this and get away with it unscathed, however let me help clear up some myths as well as provide a legal alternative.
First, let me say as clearly as I can, using copyrighted music for your own project is illegal. There are no loopholes. It doesn’t matter if you use 5 minutes or 5 seconds of the song, it’s still illegal. Before you even start to say, “But what if….” NO. I don’t care what you are going to say, let me just save us both the time…it’s illegal. Using music, video or any work that isn’t yours without permission is illegal. Period.
The new craze everyone seems to want to aspire to, is to have a video go virual on Youtube. Good for you, I wish you the best, but be advised, if you use copyrighted music, you might get slapped with a law suit.
Don’t believe me? Just ask Joe Simon, the photographer of Tony Romo’s wedding. He used Coldplay’s “Fix You” as the background music, and after it went viral on Youtube, he was forced to take it down AND had to pay a settlement along with an agreement to not talk about the incident. It’s a high price to pay and definitely not worth it.
All hope is not lost! There are a couple of legal options for you music lovers. The first, and less popular, is to simply purchase some royalty free music. This stuff comes cheap and you can use it on whatever projects you want until your little heart’s content. The problem with this option, of course, is that 1. nobody recognizes the songs and 2. the songs usually suck.
There is another good option for you to legally use the more popular music your ears crave. SongFreedom is a website that, for a very reasonable fee, will give you a download and license to use songs from their library of music. They actually do have tunes you have heard before, such as Colbie Caillat, One Republic, Train, Marvin Gaye, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Rick James, Etta James, and the Jackson 5, just to name a few.
The downside to SongFreedom is that their library is not limitless by any means, and there are limits as to what you can use the songs for (no commercial use, films, etc). They are primarily intended for people like me and Joe Simon, who do a lot of wedding videos. This gives the bride and groom a legal alternative to the unrecognizable ‘royalty free’ music everyone loves to hate.
So remember, copyright laws are there for a reason. Don’t steal someone’s hard work. You might get away with it, but if you get caught, the price is going to be a heavy one. And be sure to check out some of the alternative music sources. They might not be perfect, but that’s life. Probably better than having no music at all, or having to pay thousands of dollars in legal fees.
Side Note: I am in no way affiliated with Songfreedom.com. They do not pay me to write these things. They just happen to be a company I believe in and I am glad there is finally a cost effective way to license popular music for some of my video production work.