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Using audio (songs) from wedding DJ service

Michael White's picture
Last seen: 5 days 22 hours ago
Joined: 04/09/2011 - 4:58pm

 I've been reading up on legal issues of using audio tracks (and other music) in wedding video productions. My question is this: are the songs played by a DJ service at a wedding usable in my wedding videos without violating the legal "rights" issue? I heard that if I use less than 30 seconds of the song, than there is no violation -- any comment on this?



birdcat's picture
Last seen: 1 year 6 months ago
Joined: 10/21/2005 - 10:09am
Plus Member Moderator

1) If you are serious about this you would need to consult with an intellectual property atttorney.

2) I am not an attorney nor do I play one on TV.

3) It is my understanding (just Bruce's, no one else but me) that if the music is "incidental", meaning that it is not integrally part of the video production, then it's ok. If you can hear it and it is used as a major component of the audio portion or is used to make edit decisions (cuts) then you would need to obtain several types of rights (mechanical, sync, distribution, performance, more...) before being legally allowed to use it.

All that said, most wedding video producers fly in the face of the DMCA and run the risk of major lawsuits, but honestly I don't know any wedding vid folks wh have been sued.

Just my opinion.

Bruce Paul 7Squared Productions http://www.7squared.com


Michael White's picture
Last seen: 5 days 22 hours ago
Joined: 04/09/2011 - 4:58pm

Birdcat, I've been thinking about your point 3... and most songs would be incidental, but what spurred this thread was (for example) the "wedding couple dance" -- whereas shooting the couple's first "official" dance together would really be kinda silly without having the actual song they dance to, making it an integral part of that video segment.

The second point is (as you point out), if the DMCA would find it worth their while to pursue going after the videographer for this kind of infringement.

Part of my question is this, If the DJ service "paid" for the rights to play it at the wedding, and I capture it in the video, then is it covered by the DJ's right to use the song. (This is where, I beleive, the "incidental" part comes in.) Just thinking out loud now.

Thanks for the input.


birdcat's picture
Last seen: 1 year 6 months ago
Joined: 10/21/2005 - 10:09am
Plus Member Moderator

The word "incidental" is vague, as is it's interpretation. For example, the first dance - Having the DJ's version of the song on the video could be interpreted as incidental, as you really could not capture the moment, including the crowd noise, without including the music that just so happens to be playing in the background. On the other hand, it could be argued that you could replace the entire audio track with a piece of royalty free music that does not infringe anyone's rights. Which is why this is such a messy issue and even IP lawyers cannot agree on all aspects.

On a personal note, I solved this for my own wedding by writing my wife a song, going into studio and recording it and surprising her with it at the ceremony - http://www.birdcat.com/littlegirl.mp3

Bruce Paul 7Squared Productions http://www.7squared.com


Michael White's picture
Last seen: 5 days 22 hours ago
Joined: 04/09/2011 - 4:58pm

Thanks for the reply, Birdcat. You're a way better man than I for writing your own stuff.Having an engineering background, black-n-white is my style..... shades of grey screw things up.It "is", or it "isn't". Of course, the real world doesn't work that way. Anyway, I'll "get ur done" one way or another.


grinner's picture
Last seen: 6 years 3 months ago
Joined: 12/29/2007 - 2:56am

Some like to make the whole copyright issue complicated. It's not. If you record a copyrighted tune, you are pirating. Done. I win. all hail me. Thank you.

If we couldnt edit so easily, this would be a drag, huh? Because we can, man, there is just no reason to become a prirate like so many other wedding viots elect.


Michael White's picture
Last seen: 5 days 22 hours ago
Joined: 04/09/2011 - 4:58pm

Grinner, I've come to enjoy your responses... that being said, if I record a tune at a wedding (say the "couple dance") and I edit in a song other than the one the DJ plays for the couple, am I not in violation anyway -- I would (necessarily) need to use the same song the couple dances to..... so, editing in the same song doesn't help. But if I edit in another song, I've defeated the purpose of taping the "couple dance".

I post this mostly for the enjoyment of the argument (this time). I realize the implications of this scenerio. I was looking for other opinions -- such as Birdcat and Grinner (thank you). I have decided that if I can find a reasonable fee solution, I'll use that. Otherwise I'm stuck pirating the song(s) to meet the need of the video. I simply don't know how to make it anymore black-n-white than that (sorry).


musikman1's picture
Last seen: 2 years 10 months ago
Joined: 06/03/2011 - 9:17am

Hi all,

Excuse the "new guy in town," but I have a music studio and I MAKE audio recordings that I sell, and ASCAP is coming after me for "songs in their catalog" that have samples on my website.

My website is over 15 years old, and I have SCRUPULOUSLY kept samples to 25-29 seconds.

You should see the licensing contract that ASCAP emailed me to allow me to have samples of "covers" of the songs that I produce.

And beyond that, the accounting that they require is insane. How long did sample A play for user1, on what day/hour/min/sec did it start/end? Who is the rights holder of the song that this sample comes from (evidently that's my job, not theirs..).

It's insanity.


birdcat's picture
Last seen: 1 year 6 months ago
Joined: 10/21/2005 - 10:09am
Plus Member Moderator

There are MANY types of licenses that have to be acquired for using/selling music. The songwriters, lyricists, publishers, singers, musicians, distributors, etc... all must be paid (what ASCAP & BMI do). Rights are mechanical, sync, performance, distribution, so many more....

Why I always suggest speaking to an IP lawyer and getting your checkbook ready.

Bruce Paul 7Squared Productions http://www.7squared.com


vid-e-o-man's picture
Last seen: 1 month 4 days ago
Joined: 02/06/2010 - 4:20am
Plus Member

It sure seems to me that the whole music industry in these United States (can't speak for the rest of the world) is sure missing the boat on this or other similar issues. I believe that there are a lot of people like us who would like to be on the up and up but find the whole licensing set up to be too intimidating or complicated to use properly. If there was a simpler and more affordable system of using copyrighted music, we would just pay ($10, $20 or whatever) to a central site and record the first dance as is with the crowd ambiance. I guarantee that their music is getting used anyway and they aren't finding out about it. They would get money that they probably wouldn't get in the first place many times over and people (us) would feel better about using their stuff. The royalty-free people might not like this solution. IMVHO.


SteveMann's picture
Last seen: 4 months 3 weeks ago
Joined: 07/26/2005 - 4:35pm

vid-e-o-man said:

"It sure seems to me that the whole music industry in these United States
(can't speak for the rest of the world) is sure missing the boat on
this or other similar issues."

The confusion surrounding the myriad legalities of licensing both helps and hurts here. If copyrighted music is recognizable in your video, then the copyright owner *can* enforce their rights. There is no such thing (in law) as "incidental". There's no "30-second" provision, there's no "downstream licensing". It's all hearsay. The bottom line is that if a copyright owner recognizes their work in a video, they can enforce their rights. Period.

On the other hand, the wedding and event video professionals represent such a very tiny number of uses of copyrighted works, it's simply not worth the notice of the owners and their evil licensing agents. which is also why there will likely never be any kind of blanket licensing ad vid-e-o-man suggests. We are simply too insignificant to be bothered with.

I have asked on various forums over the past ten years, does anyone have FIRST-HAND knowledge of a videographer who was busted by the Copyright Mafia? So far the closest I have is a third-hand report from a school official who knows of another school that got a warning letter from the Disney corporation. The school in question was advertising DVD's of a school play on the school website (Disney owns the book).



Michael White's picture
Last seen: 5 days 22 hours ago
Joined: 04/09/2011 - 4:58pm

SteveMann and Birdcat, these two responses are worth the price of admission alone..... thanks, as this was the information I was hoping for -- a strong idea of how the "infringement" issues worked and what it means for the wedding videographer.

I suspected our role in the video business (insignificant wedding vediographers) combined with the "common misunderstandings" suggests that doing wedding videos is still a wothwhile endeavor. So, I will continue. Again, thanks.



birdcat's picture
Last seen: 1 year 6 months ago
Joined: 10/21/2005 - 10:09am
Plus Member Moderator

Actually, my ex-wife's son-in-law (unsure of what that makes him to me) is a DJ and he purchases his music from a special clearing house specifically for DJ's - I believe the songs cost more and royalties are paid that way. Same for karaoke discs, they are more than regular cd's.

Any other DJ's out here?

Bruce Paul 7Squared Productions http://www.7squared.com


stevejbiz's picture
Last seen: 3 years 6 months ago
Joined: 10/16/2010 - 7:30pm

A young friend is a DJ in Northern CA. He tells me a band was in the house to film a segment and he was playing during their breaks. The videographer started the shoot as the band began to play and his cut was ending. About 12 seconds, as he tells it. The video went on to YouTube, someone "important" saw it, and the band paid $800 for the privilege of playing over the copyrighted music. The DJ said he paid a thousand. Not sure how the shooter fared, but I'd bet he paid as well.

Just say'n.


Michael White's picture
Last seen: 5 days 22 hours ago
Joined: 04/09/2011 - 4:58pm

Scary thought, that 3 different people had to pay for the same song (played only the once) -- equating to only one version of the song having been played, andthe fee is times three...... what a racket. I'm in the wrong business.


D0n
D0n's picture
Last seen: 2 months 3 weeks ago
Joined: 11/09/2007 - 5:28pm

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I46_bjwH6A4

go to the video, read the comments.

that was for a video I was comissioned to make by a magazine.... yes the peice in my portfolio that gets shown to editors on my laptop has the music beatsynched in, but nothing that can ever be copied goes out to the general public.

Fair use.

As for weddings.... I advertize my weddings as "Journalistic style" and we record what is there and turn it over to the client. We also have clients that want songs added to thier slideshow or dance video albums, and we purchase those songs from itunes, on thier behalf, itemize them on the clients bill, add them to thier wedding dvd's then delete them off our drives. The client signs a contract and as far as I am concerned, I've put thier Bought music onto thier own "private use" video and I will fight to claim it it was fair use if challenged. The key argument? We did not distribute COPIES of the music, we simply provided the service that allowed the customer to BUY a song, ADD it to the Video we created for thier own personal, private use. We did not KEEP A COPY of the music they BOUGHT.