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Copyright Clearance

Just cos you bought the CD/DVD or Photo, that doesn’t mean you have the rights to use the materials in your videos or PowerPoint presentations!

When you buy a CD or an image, or download something from Google, you are only buying very limited, specific rights for personal use; that does not include making other copies, or using it for business purposes such as in speaker support materials and so on.

Okay, so if you’re only presenting to a closed room you’ll probably get away with it, but do remember that you are using someone else’s work and they may well be relying on payment for their work to live. Although it may seem a bit of a pain, it is someone else’s livelihood you’re dealing with.

And remember, this is a digital age and there are a myriad of ways in which your materials can somehow appear on the internet without you realising it, and when it does the Google bots are very clever at finding you, so be careful, be fair and be legal.

The first thing to do is to work out who actually owns the copyright of the material you want to use. Then contact the owner or their agent and ask for permission for use. They will want to know who you are, how you are going to use the material, the audience and distribution mechanism and whether you are making money from it. Sometimes you won’t need to pay anything, but quite often there is a fee, which can be negotiated. For instance, if you are a charity you may well be given free use or granted a very generous Licence for a small fee; however, if you are putting a TV commercial together, then you’re going to be expected to pay an appropriate amount.

Sometimes the most trying part of all this process is finding out who the owner of the material is, so here are a few websites that may help:


PRS is the main UK site and ASCAP is in the States, but a lot of commercial artists who release music in Europe are US based so…. Actually the websites can be quite frustrating and we usually find it’s best to call someone and speak to them, but at least if you know who owns the music you’re off the blocks.

You can of course use Library Production Music, and there are any number of Production Music Houses in the UK, we use DeWolfe Music a lot, but KPM, Carlin and some smaller ones such as Rocket and CueMusic are also very good. The bigger companies licence through PRS and you can have a buy out rate now for a production which is a bit simpler, but on small projects can still be rather expensive. And if you’re on the YouTube road with semi pro materials, then YouTube actually has quite a good library itself, which for the timebeing is free! However, there are licensing restrictions there as well, so do read the small print, it does matter.

For information on copyright have a look at our Focus on Copyright with litigation specialist Peter Coyle: <iframe width=“560” height=“315” src=”//www.youtube.com/embed/gjPS0JOrdLw” frameborder=“0” allowfullscreen></iframe>




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