Sunday, February 22, 2009

Using music on your blog or Website

So, I wasted my weekend editing together some video we took last Thanksgiving, and used the Jon Brion song from SYNECDOCHE as the background music. Copyright law says (DISCLAIMER: I am not a lawyer, this is not legal advice, see a lawyer if you want legal advice) that you can sample a snippet of a song, so long as it's not a significant portion of the work. Usually at this has meant that we've been advised to use no more than 15 seconds of a song. (For a song only 30 seconds long though you couldn't use a sample of this size, because 15 seconds would be half the song, a significant portion).

So what do you do if you want to use the whole dang song? You do need to get permission from the copyright owner first.

I cruised around the Internet and found that there are three main sites that license songs: ASCAP, BMI and SESAC.

According to ASCAP, you need to obtain permission before using a song online "because the United States Copyright Law grants the owner of a copyrighted musical work ...the exclusive right to perform it publicly. ... This includes Internet transmissions of music."

Those sites all seem to say that the kind of license I need is a "synchronization license." This is the one required if you want to use a song to accompany a video.

But how to get one? The first step is to search the above Web sites to find out who owns the license to the song you're interested in. Unfortunately "Little Person" doesn't come up in any of their searches.

In any case, it looks like you have to go to a different agent for a synchronization license than you do for a Public Performance License -- which looks to be the license you need if you're just going to play the song.

These sites have a lot of instructions for for-profit business owners, including Website operators. But no advice for bloggers who might not be turning a dime. And so, I sent of a few emails to find out exactly what to do. And tomorrow I'll be calling the hotline at BMI to see if they can help me out. If you need to do the same, here's the info from the BMI website:

"You can also call the BMI repertoire information hotline at 1-800-800-9313 where you can request information on as many as 20 song titles per call."

What experience have you had obtaining copyright for music on your site? What questions do you have? Please post away.

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