Can I Include Copyrighted Songs in my Demo Reel?
Producing a demo reel that highlights your key accomplishments or builds up anticipation around your business or brand is part of a fun and exciting marketing strategy. The demo reel almost always includes a mix of various media sources such as video clips and live-action b-roll footage paired with synchronized music and voice-over narration, but can I include Copyrighted songs in my demo reel? This is a common question that frequently comes up, particular when a business owner has a song in mind that they would like to use for their demo reel.
Unfortunately, the addition of Copyrighted songs in a demo reel is not only considered unprofessional (unless you’ve got the proper licensing), it’s also illegal. If you’ve got a particular soundtrack or song in mind for your demo reel, and you know that it’s copyrighted, you’re going to have to face up to the fact that Copyrighted music requires licensing in order for it to be included in a video demo reel or any creative work produced by your team.
Music & Copyright Laws
Copyright is an exclusive right that is held by the publisher or performer that is behind the creation of the music. It acts as a legal device, protecting the music creator and therefore the music owner from having their work stolen or used without their permission. Because of copyright laws, business owners that are producing demo reels must be aware of the rules behind copyrighted music before considering the use of such songs in a demo reel or any other creative work.
If you’re interested in a particular song for your demo reel, according to Copyright law, you must seek permission to use the song before you can legally include it in your demo reel. This means you have to track down the original copyright owner to the music. Depending on whether you’re interested in reproducing the song from sheet music, such as if you intend to play the sheet music on piano or guitar for your film, or if you have a pre-recorded song that you particularly like, you might have to track down more than one owner.
This is because music which is produced and recorded actually has multiple copyright owners. There is the owner of the sheet music or original written music, and then there’s the owner of the recorded music or the individual who created the actual recording of the song. In order to use a pre-recorded song in your demo reel, you would need permission from both the original sheet music owner and the individual owner of the recorded music in order to do so.
Songs in Public Domain
Often times, demo reels will use music or songs from public domain in order to get around U.S. Copyright law. In doing so, demo reels can actually include pre-recorded music and songs, often that have a catchy tune and are very similar to what you might love about a copyrighted song, but without all the laws and rules regarding copyright infringement protecting them. Open source, or public domain, songs are free to use for your own purposes without requiring any paid licensing, permission, or unique contracts made between the original producer of the music and the producer of your demo reel.
If you’re not sure whether it’s okay to use a song for your demo reel, the first step is to figure out whether or not there is a Copyright protection on the music. Any songs that you hear on the radio, are going to be protected by copyright which means you won’t be able to use them without proper licensing and protections. Likewise, the use of open source music or public domain music you will generally have fewer fees, and less hassle involved in regards to licensing and other regulatory requirements that come up when a song is used in a creative work that will later be distributed professionally.
A Few More Considerations
So, “Can I include Copyrighted songs in my demo reel?” The short answer is, ‘”YES” but it will require you to jump through various licensing and regulatory hoops in order to ensure that you are properly seeking permission and obtaining the right distinctions to use the music in your reel. Producing a demo reel that includes a pre-recorded song that you love will likely require that you obtain a synchronization license which will cover the reproduction of that song, synchronized to visuals, and later shared through various distribution channels outside your immediate group.
If you’re trying to get around Copyright laws, but you want to use Copyrighted songs in your demo reel, you’re most likely to face challenges if you use music that is popular and if your demo is to be distributed on a larger scale. However, you don’t want to get yourself in hot water for using Copyrighted music without a license as this not only looks unprofessional, it can leave you with fines and other hassles including having your demo reel blacklisted or blocked by the distributor.
If you’re still wondering, “Can I include Copyrighted songs in my demo reel” the reality is that you can use copyrighted songs, but only if you go through the various hoops of finding the Copyright owner, seeking permission, paying for the copyright license, and following all appropriate distribution rules. If you’re interested in the easier route, consider producing your demo reel with songs that are included in public domain or are otherwise considered “open source.”