Todd: I’m not a lawyer and


Todd: I’m not a lawyer and this isn’t legal advice.

Lets start with what you can find at

“The doctrine of fair use has developed through a substantial number
of court decisions over the years and has been codified in section 107
of the copyright law.

Section 107 contains a list of the various purposes for which the
reproduction of a particular work may be considered fair, such as
criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research.
Section 107 also sets out four factors to be considered in determining
whether or not a particular use is fair:

    1. The purpose and character of the use, including whether such
      use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes
    2. The nature of the copyrighted work
    3. The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole
    4. The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work

The distinction between fair use and infringement may be unclear and
not easily defined. There is no specific number of words, lines, or
notes that may safely be taken without permission. Acknowledging the
source of the copyrighted material does not substitute for obtaining

So you’re in a very gray area, which hinges to some extent of item #3 above. The way this was explained to me several years ago in a seminar on legal issues in video production is that if the music is incidental — that is, if you’re taping the first dance and the copyright protect music is playing in the background — it probably falls under “fair use” if you include this in your wedding video.

However, if you take the music from the first dance and use it throughout the video — that is, if you remove it from the context of the dance and apply it elsewhere — then you’ve exited the realm of fair use and are encroaching on copyright abuse.

Before the advent of the internet it wasn’t critical. The bride brought you CDs she had bought, you added music from them to the edit and gave the bride a VHS copy of the finished tape. She showed it to a few friends and relatives and its distribution ended there. Once material began to be delivered digitally and could be put onto You Tube, Vimo and Facebook, however, violation of copyright became a very public matter, capable of getting the violator into lots of trouble.

Not long ago it was reported in several of the trade journals that a wedding videographer had been sued by a copyright holder over the use of music; the case was settled out of court for an undisclosed sum “in the mid-five figure range.”

So bottom line: using anything other than buyout music, or music generated locally for which you have written authorization, is a very bad idea unless it’s incidental music that’s used sparingly.


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