Legalities of soundtracks in wedding videos

Viewing 18 reply threads
  • Author
    • #47022

      I just did my first wedding this past weekend and am in the process of editing. I have found most of the clips I want to use, now I just need to organize them and add music. I have looked all over for purchasing licenses for popular wedding music that I see in wedding videos quite frequently. A couple examples baing “At Last”, and “A Beautiful Day” (plus music that the couple requested to be in the video).

      The only thing I can find when doing searches for music are some generic wedding collections for a couple hundered dollars. While I wouldn’t mind picking up one or two of these collections, it still doesnt solve the issues of the most popular selections.

      My wife I know came across a website that sold “credits” for approved music (Zoom I think), but still run into the issue of finding the exact selections I am looking for.

      Also – is it legal to record the dance while music is played in the background (DJ music)? Or does this music also have to be cleared?

      While I did do this wedding for free (as they were my test) I do plan on making a business out of this. I don’t mind dropping a little $ on this stuff to make it 100% legal.

      Any help with finding the music I am looking for would be greatly appreciated!

    • #193627

      If it is copyrighted it is illegal to use without permission/release.

      If you distribute it in any way you are violating copyright laws.

      If you discover HOW/WHERE to easily, quickly and “affordably” acquire original or decent renditions of copyrighted music you could make a mint selling that discovery, formula, information to others.

      No matter of qualification or justification exists for the use of copyrighted materials/music without a legally acquired release.

      Do people in the wedding and other video-related fields use copyrighted materials/music without holding a legal release. Yeah, the vast majority do, including MOST of those who claim to never have done so. Some justify. Some don’t bother trying. Others couldn’t care less. And others seek obscure gray areas from the depths of their own consciences or oblique blog and other published resources to make them feel better/safer for doing it.

      This does not in any way address your questions, I know. And I am sorry to be sounding so sanctimonious about it. Believe me, that is NOT my intention. My comments are simply an attempt to provide a Black-and-White answer to a question that is asked, debated and inappropriately/ambiguously answered on a daily basis on a video forum somewhere in the web universe.

      It boils down to timidity, conscience, money, subjectivity, ignorance, attitude or moral inclination. I do not have one iota of sympathy for the RIAA or whatever letters you chose to consider. I can understand the abuse handed down to the vast majority of artists both by these major (and minor) record labels as well as pirates who rip and sell CDs, Videos, DVDs etc. I can appreciate the quandary it places upon those in the independent video services provider industry who tape events where copyright music is played by the DJs, the bands, or over the venue’s PA system, but it is a gray area ONLY because people do not, or will not accept the legality of copyright laws as they apply to MOST circumstances of copying, selling, distributing or presenting copyright materials.

      The answer IS essentially Black-and-White. What/how we address that within the confines of our individual operations is entirely up to us – individually. Those who would offer ANY justification otherwise are wrong in the eyes of the law – right or wrong however the law might be.

    • #193628

      Thank you for your response. Basically what you are saying is that any wedding video out there that has clips from the reception dance and doesnt delete the audio is violating copyright laws?

      Well I guess the best I can hope for is Zoom to clear more music. I do like the idea of per use charges, and I also think they are reasonably priced.In my opinionif “insert name here” do not jump on this bandwagon, they will lose ount in the long run as I know I am much more inclined to pay SOMETHING to make it legal rather than ignoring the laws and doing as I please.

    • #193629
      Grinner Hester

      That would set you far apart from most wedding vidiots, brother. They don’t think twice about pirating content if it makes em a buck. Heck, at WEVA events, they’ll hand an award to a freakin pirate.


    • #193630

      Earl C is right in most respects so I’ll confine my comments to the background and (I hope) the solution, imperfect though it may be.

      I believe the solution lies in the music industry accepting reality. Rather than beating everyone with the same big stick, it needs to offer ways for modest users to pay modest prices for their usage. Making it affordable makes it payable too.

      In the UK, the music industry has created a scheme which allows producers to use any amount of commercially available copyright music for a charge of about 5.00 (say $7.50) per disk sold.

      I’d call that a win-win deal. The music industry gets the original sale of the music CDs and, given that few clients buy more than ten copies of their video, up to 50.00 ($75.00) in licence fees. The clients get their personal choice of music and the producer gets satisfied and happy clients. Why doesn’t the US music industry do the same?

      In the UK scheme there are restrictions on where the licenced video can be shown, of course, but they’re no less difficult for the music industry to enforce than say the restrictions on commercially purchased films on DVD, eg they cannot be broadcast on television, on the Internet, in hotels etc. The TV stations have blanket licences anyway and which hotel is going to want to broadcast your latest wedding DVD? Broadcast on the Internet is yet to be tackled but I believe it is only a matter of time.

      Coming from a 30 year career in video production where we paid copyright licences for all the production music we used, paying a reasonable fee for our wedding video music is a no-brainer. The paradox, surprising to me, is that many wedding video producers in the UK still don’t bother to pay the fee or observe the restrictions.

    • #193631

      I recall a magazine articleabout the UK systemhappeninghere in the States, but I can’t seem to find it.

    • #193632

      In searching for some sane information about this topic, I ran across some great information from a copyright attorney. Expecting a videographer to pay a few thousand dollars a year, or even $5 – $10 per song is ridiculous, especially considering that the usage is so small. I’ve been involved in copyright law as a recording studio producer for 20 years, and I found discussions about “the law says…” and “the RIAA wants…” to be offensive, to say the least. The LAST thing any writer or artist wants is to restrict access to their art – and at best, they deserve attribution and payment for distribution, but a wedding video is a private showing – NOT public distribution. Again, keep in mind my history as a music producer – my view point isn’t biased against copyright.

      The following is from – I just hope some sue-happy individual doesn’t claim I’ve stolen their online content!

      <span style=”font-weight: bold;”>Q: As a wedding video producer, do I have any exposure to potential copyright claims?</span>

      <span style=”font-weight: bold;”>A:</span> It depends on your business model.

      speaking, weddings are private events; they are not open to the public.
      Because they’re private, infringement claims are generally dismissed.
      When a person purchases a compact disc recording, they’re (usually)
      granted a license that reads: “Licensed for private, non commercial
      use.” or a similar language. That’s the license that allows someone to
      use a Tim McGraw song during their wedding.

      If your business
      model involves simply recording the event, editing, and delivering a
      shiny disc product to the bride and groom, a videographer is covered
      the bride and groom’s license. That is to say, you are specifically
      licensed to use that material in any your clients see fit, providing it
      remains private and non-commercial.

      <span style=”font-weight: bold;”>Q: I was paid to produce the video – doesn’t that make it “commercial?”</span>

      <span style=”font-weight: bold;”>A: </span>No.
      Your recording and subsequent editing of the private event does not
      constitute a “derivative work”, nor is your being paid in any way
      related to the copyrighted material. That you have been hired by the
      licensee simply means you’re “for hire” and generally indemnified
      against a copyright claim. This legal structure varies between states,

      Hope this all helps!

    • #193633

      Oops. It ceased to be “private and non-commercial” the minute you collect your check for producing that “shiny disc production” according to the law. That doesn’t mean there are situations and circumstances, but please folks, SOMEBODY understand that there are essentially NO legal gray areas regardless of how anyone wants to justify it. Again, that making them/us right or wrong to do so is a legal and personal issue. There is NO realistic escape clause, no matter HOW the information is stated by ANY attorney or entity. Until the current laws are more specific, more defined and/or offer more latitude, reasonable or otherwise, it currently remains a crap shoot.

      Also, again, not preaching for, or against, just wish EVERYONE would quit looking for legal justification/interpretation that simply is not there. Do it! Or don’t do it! Like doing a “California roll” at an intersection stop sign, or going 40 in a 35-mile per hour zone because there isn’t a sign posted every 10 feet in a residential area – the legal beagles on either side of the stand still say ignorance of the law is not a defense.

      Do people do it? Yeah, California roll and everything else, but that still doesn’t make it LEGAL!

    • #193634

      EarlC -I completely agree with the precept of what you’re saying, but the law is always “interpreted” and defined by court cases, and you are absolutely CORRECT that until the laws are more specific, it’s all a crap shoot. I definitely don’t want to beat a dead horse, so I’m going to leave my comments at what I found, and that discussion with my long-term copyright attorney of 20 years leaves me believing what the writer said at Jeremiah Jacobs’ blog regarding “for hire work.” My contracts indemnify me specifically for this circumstance – my clients all agree to take on the risk for hiring me to do the work with copyrighted material for their own PERSONAL use, and I tend to make sure they have purchased recordings of the songs, so that my product may somehow constitute a “backup” of what they’ve already purchased, since they are not re-distributing the recording, but only using it for personal reasons.

      I will say that I also agree with you in that, aside from the letter of the law, it’s all just justification of a situation that has yet to become a court case, which means that the interpretation of the law regarding THIS situation has yet to be determined.

    • #193635

      I don’t know which jurisdiction Case 42 is working in but I suggest he has an attorney review his contract terms. Based on his post, as long as I make it clear to my client that they indemnify me, I can break any law with impunity. Tell that to the gunman hired to kill an inconvenient lover etc.

    • #193636

      As I posted in the fourm not just get legit permission?

      Finding the proper “authority” was the most difficult thing for me but if you write the artist and label and ask for permission with a description of the project and intended use I think you will get a license for a very cheap price ($22.50 in my case for the ‘TV Sync License’ and $15.00 for ‘Videogram license’ – there terms not mine).

    • #193637

      210pe where do you start to look for that permission? Just start Googling it to find out who owns the rights to the piece you are interested in?

      As for indemnification, all that means is that the copyright holder sues me and wins, and then I get the luxury of suing the person who agreed to indemnify me to get them to pay the bill to the copyright holder. I try to avoid things like that.

    • #193638

      pseudosafari: sorry for the delay in reply. Look on the cd label and see who “owns” the song. The search for that company online. There are services that handle multiple artist/companies too. Like many CCM genre artist are cleared through and they even have an online form for submittal.

    • #193639

      This is great. Thanks to all for the questions and answers. I’ve used copyrighted material and didn’t think twice about it, but I think I will be trying to acquire a license through the musics owners. After all it is billable…

      Thanks a bunch!

    • #193640
      Grinner Hester

      why did you not think twice about it? What did you think the copyright was for?

      I know no wedding dudes who pirate that don’t know they are pirates. They just don’t seem to have a problem with it. Again, that’s an idustry that actually rewards it.

    • #193641

      These conversations are so frustrating sometimes. My husband re-recorded a song for his new album, and we paid for 1000 uses at 8 cents a copy. If we reproduce thecd again, we will buy another 1000 uses. The company in Canada where you buy music licencing is CMRRA (Canadian Musical Reproduction Rights Agency – If they don’t have it, then you have to look elsewhere. For cd’s it’s mechanical licencing, and for video it’s synchronization licensing.

      Then there is the problem you run into where the song writer will not give permission. For instance, we tried to get permission for my husband to put Cat Scratch Fever by Ted Nuggent on his album. But Ted doesn’t want to give permission, so no one else can record that song. AND, I might add, my husband did it absolutely perfect! lol)

      I’d like to do an experiment. Why don’t we collectively try for the licencing of a song fora wedding video and see who has the best luck and how much it costs? The cost may be so minimal that this conversion could be a moote point. And hey, if the customer wants music in their wedding video, then that charge should be passed on.

      There’s always the option of artistic wedding videos and have a song recorded that can be used as your signature background music.

      I never underestimate the power of Big Brother when it comes to music theft.

    • #193642

      Ok, I’ve sent a request for YMCA by the Village People, and told them that the song was playing in the background while the bride was speaking and that I had shot some footage of the guests dancing to that song.

      I’m curious to see what they say!

    • #193643

      Well, here was the response I got …

      Please send your request to EMI

      James Armstrong


      Gail O’Donnell
      Music Supervisor
      Film / Television / Commercials

    • #193644
      Grinner Hester

      You caould get BMI/ASCAP certified and use what ya want.

      May be quicker and cheaper. It’s how coffee shops get to play Enya and stuff.

Viewing 18 reply threads
  • The forum ‘Wedding and Event Video’ is closed to new topics and replies.

Best Products

The best stock video sites — 2021

Stock video sometimes gets a bad wrap in the filmmaking community. In reality, however, we see stock video used every day in any number of applications. Below, you'll find our selections for the best places to look for stock...

Need help making a stellar first video?


Download our free eBook with 8 tips to get on the right track and create a video that you can be proud of.




Given away to one lucky winner

Competition is open worldwide