Music & Copyright
In order to use music in any production you need to obtain the required permission and/or licence. Exactly how to do this will depend on various factors but the main thing is to find out who administers musical rights in your area. Most countries have an organisation which administers copyright licences on behalf of the copyright owner. You need to contact them and make a licence application.
- All types of media production are covered by copyright. Whether you are making your own amateur video, running a wedding video business or making a feature film, the law still applies to you so you need to know how your project is affected.
- "Incidental" music that happens to be playing in the background of a video scene isn't usually subject to licensing, but only if genuinely happens as you are shooting (for example, you're at a fair and a band can be heard in the background). You can't add music in post-production and pretend it's incidental.
- Music which is the feature of a shot will probably be subject to copyright, for example, a shot specifically of a band playing a whole song.
- All music eventually comes out of copyright although the life of copyright protection varies between countries and situations. Music that is older than 100 years has probably entered the public domain, but it's always prudent to check.
- Some licensing schemes allow you to use any music without getting explicit permission from the composer—you just pay a fee to the licensing agency. Other schemes do require such permission and you may need to submit a detailed proposal explaining how the music will be set to pictures.
- In many cases there is simply no legal way to use the music you have chosen—you need to learn to live with this fact.
Non-Copyright / Royalty-Free Options
A good option is to purchase royalty-free music which can be used for just about any type of production. Technically the music is (usually) still copyright but for a small fee you can use it without any practical restrictions. The big disadvantages are that you don't have the same selection to choose from, and of course the musical quality or originality isn't the same.