VoiceOver Legal: Using Copyrighted Songs In A Demo

Q: I have been told that if I use a copyrighted song on my demo, and put the demo on my website, that it is not copyright infringement and it is perfectly okay to do because I’m not getting any money from using that song. Is this correct?

A: This could not be further from the truth! I hear this myth all the time, and I’m not sure where it comes from. Whether or not you get paid from broadcasting someone’s copyrighted work is completely irrelevant. Copyright is an intellectual property right.

Voice Over Legal Book

Voice Over Legal Book

The easiest way to understand what you can and cannot do with intellectual property is to compare it to tangible property. So, for instance, if someone owns a car, you are NOT allowed to borrow the car and use it without their permission and justify that it is okay to use that car because you are not getting paid by anyone to use it. The same goes for copyrighted material. You are not allowed to use it for any reason without the permission of the owner. That goes for selling it, broadcasting it on a website, or copying it. All rights are reserved to the holder of the copyright.

This issue is a hot one right now because copyright infringement claims against voice artists are occurring frequently. I am getting an average of an email a day from voice artists who have unlicensed music on their demos, and the copyright holders are asking for payments from these voice artists for infringing their copyrights. And just today, I got an email from a voice artist about COPY on his demo that someone was claiming was being infringed.

There is new technology out there that allows copyright owners to encrypt their music so that if it is being displayed on the Internet, it is now easily traceable. (TuneSat is a new company that is selling this technology.)  (Link is http://www.tunesat.com)

So, voice artists need to be sensitive and diligent about this issue, or they face some potentially hefty financial consequences.

About Rob Sciglimpaglia

As both a voice talent and an attorney, Rob Sciglimpaglia is uniquely qualified to answer your legal questions related to the voiceover industry. If you would like to ask Rob Sciglimpaglia a legal question about voiceover, please email him directly at the e-mail below.

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