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Using music in films

We have filmed a dance festival, the dancers brought along their own music to dance to, some of the music is quite well known, other songs are from different communities and it would be difficult to find out who owns the copyright, we thought of trying to block out the music and use other music that has the same beat, because we have filmed the dancing footwork and It wouldn't look right if everything is out of sync - this is proving to be very difficult to do, how can we get round this, are we able to use the original music somehow without breaching copyrights etc.

  • What is the purpose of the film? Based on your description I'm going for Docu or Dance Technical.

    If it's for the dancers and the festival, you can give it to them for their use no matter whose music they used.

    1) Small use - festivals etc

    Make the Fair Use argument - you were filming the dancers, the music is incidental.

    It doesn't really matter whether or not that's legally watertight, it covers both sides at this level, and, unless you are doing something awful, even if the music people know about it, they are unlikely to act.

    2) YouTube, Vimeo etc

    If you are not trying to be commercial, then you can use it anyway. You have pretty good "fair use".

    If you put on YT and it gets flagged, it takes taken down. Likely to happen if you are using anything from any record company, or a live version of a standard. Only do this if the dancers/festival are happy with it though. Note - I know from experience that YT DO NOT follow Fair Use doctrine - if they get a copyright compliant and say "yep, that is the rights holders music", they do what the rights holder asks. Which is often nothing other than divert revenue to the rights holders account.

    3) Something bigger?

    Send the dancers the footage and ask "do you know whose music this is? and can you give their details as we need to ask permission to use it."

    Hopefully that will solve your problem. If not, it gives you at least a paper trail showing your attempt to find and ask the copyright holders. And depending how it being used - TV arts program? - that might be enough.

    2 months ago
  • Ugh what a situation to get into, what a shame. I suspect you may hit an impasse here.

    I worked on the DVD of the tour of a TV talent show - for the DVD they had to replace the audio on the DVD as one of the tracks was outrageous to license - they used the same track re-recorded so only paid for the publishing, not performance. Still costs money, though.

    I'm not convinced "fair use" will work well as an argument - the music isn't incidental but is very much directly connected to what you're filming. YouTube go beyond the law and will knock out a film on as few as 3 seconds.

    Whoever commissioned the film (the promoter?) needs to make a decision - clear everything or not release it in public. Next time, the dance festival promoter needs to take an active stance with music choices for dancers, from day 1. It will even affect their PPL/PRS obligations, so needs to be taken seriously

    2 months ago
    • Yes - YT just ignore fair use. As they are allowed to do.

      But if the recording was of "commercially unrecorded music" then it probably wouldn't get flagged. (I may have read too much into the "other songs are from different communities", and also that they describe focussing on the feet, which makes it sound more like a technical dance thing than something aimed at a big audience).

      Of course if you host on your own website, or the dance organisations, you get to decide what risks to take. And that might be the ideal option if it is basically a video for a small audience who know about you anyway.

      2 months ago
  • Sorry to hear of your situation.

    Coming from the music industry and being a songwriter I can give you a simple example I know to be true. Example: A dance school has a recital of 30 acts. One of these acts uses a Beatles recording, or an Adele recording to dance to in the recital. The school films the recital and sells the DVD's to the parents of the kids in the recital. If the song isn't cleared they are breaking the law. If one sells a creative work to a solicited public for profit, then if any included protected work is not cleared it is breaking the law.

    Having worked with the Entertainment Law Initiative of the Recording Academy in the States I know that millions of dollars per year due to songwriters are being lost to dance schools that don't clear music as I have described. The problem being how do you go after several thousand dance schools. In discussions with the head of legal at the RIAA, myself and others have suggested they go after 20 or so a year, and those that may get reported directly, just to let the public know so people can't claim ignorance.
    I'm willing to bet, at a minimum, The Beatles publishing alone loses half a million dollars a year to this.

    2 months ago
  • Thanks for all the answers, the short film we are making is basically to help the dance festival, it has no real commercial value, the problem is we filmed the whole festival which involves different communities presenting their own traditional dances, so you have a situation of the dancers coming along with old songs and newer songs and using them to dance to. The film has some value to the dancers themselves and perhaps some smaller festivals. We can in some cases use loop music but where the cinematographer has captured footwork in the dance sequence the music should match the movement, this is our issue - in one case the group used a famous song, to dance a waltz to, we were able to use other waltz music but other dances, were harder to match with music.

    2 months ago