Monday, May 12, 2014

Public Domain Music for Web Video - Part 1

Video and music belong together but there are corporations and teams of lawyers that want to control what you can and can't do with music. To be clear, I do believe that music artists and performers should be compensated for their work. No question about that.

We who strive to stay to the good side of the law understand that we cannot use copyrighted music. In the United States we have a bunch of laws that prevent many songs and music history from entering the public domain. But first...

What Is Public Domain in the United States?

It is a work whose copyright has expired and it enters the public domain for anyone to use for any reason.

 Except for recorded music.

You see, there are a lot of vested interests that like to keep generating income off of recorded music. They have, IN MY OPINION, manipulated state and federal laws to keep said music from transitioning into the public domain.

In truth, no recorded music will enter the public domain until 2067 at the theoretical earliest.

There is sheet music that has entered the public domain. If you can play a music instrument you can record your own version of that song.

You can own the sheet music but you cannot buy a recording based from that sheet music and use it in your video without permission.

Here is an example:
  • The sheet music might be in the public domain.
  • The song (words) might belong to one or more authors or under ownership to a specific music company.
  • The artist recording of the song might be copyrighted to another company
  • The recording company might have been absorbed into a larger company who now owns that recording. 
Yes, it can get that complicated. Haven't even started to talk about federal copyright issues.

There Is A Way

So no, you will not be able to use Larry, Move Your Hand in your video.

You can:
Make your own music.
Find artists that have freely released their music to the Public Domain.
Find artists that allow usage via Creative Commons licenses.

Just Because You Found on The Internet Does Not Make It So...

There are web sites that state that they have Public Domain music. Be skeptical.

Other countries have other interpretations of copyright law. And for those thinking Americans who want to bypass U.S. copyright laws you need to double check if there is a cooperative copyright agreement between the U.S. and the country of the web site your are visiting.  The term you are looking for is called The Berne Convention.

The recording could be out of copyright in Rome but still subject to the U.S. copyright in America.

It goes without saying that I am not a lawyer or a copyright expert. It will be your responsibility to verify if the recording you use is in compliance with the laws of your location.

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