Is there a 30 Second Music Rule?

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    • #80051

      Most music sites will let you preview 30 seconds of a song for free. (for example:


      If I am producing a documentary on Doc Watson, for example, can I play 30 second clips of some of his different songs in my production without anybody's permission?


      Or is this foolish thinking on my part and I have to have permission (and I don't even know where to start or who to ask for that), whether I use 1 second or 30 seconds of any of his songs.


      Any guidance would be greatfully appreciated. Thanks!

  • #210814

    The 30 seconds isn't a standard, it's just the length of time the copyright holder feel is acceptable for a sample listen – and it's just for a listen, to evaluate it's suitabilty. There is no attached right to use it in any way at all. If you wish to use ten seconds worth of a copyright work, you need to get it cleared. The famous example is Fleetwood Mac's intro to the Chain – the motor racing theme. Nobody ever plays the rest of the song, but you cannot use that bass guitar riff without paying.


    If you are making a documentary on somebody, it seems risky to pinch material from the subject!


    If you google PRS and PPL, these will be able to clear whatever clips you select – cost depends on distribution and quantity.

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