Music and Copyright Issues

Wedding Minister on Music and Copyright Issues

Copyright laws provide music artists and publishers with protections for their intellectual property. Unless you want to risk incurring penalties for infringement, you need to make sure that you or someone you hire is not in violation of copyright law.

Music can add a great deal to your wedding ceremony and reception. In fact, it’s hard to imagine not having music at these events to help capture the mood, communicate the significance of the event and celebrate the occasion. What would the ceremony be without a song to accompany the bride down the aisle or a reception without a special song to mark the couple’s first dance?

While couples are known to write their own wedding vows, something that can help you with, most couples do not compose the songs that will be played during the ceremony or reception. In other words, most couples rely upon the artistic talents and abilities of others to provide the appropriate music for the wedding events.

Under federal copyright law, songs are considered intellectual propertyCopyright and are protected. As with most property, the owner holds certain rights to use the property and to limit others in their use of the property without compensation. When you purchase a song off iTunes you are paying for the right to use someone else’s property. You do not own the song. You have merely purchased the right to play and listen to it. You cannot duplicate it and distribute it. That’s what all the fuss over Napster was about. Even the right to play and listen is limited. For example, you are not supposed to play the song in a public setting. Other licenses have to be purchased to exercise that right.

Fortunately, under most circumstances, your wedding ceremony is attended by family and friends that have been invited and is not a public performance. Public is defined under copyright law as a place open to the public or any place where a substantial number of persons outside of a normal circle of a family and its social acquaintances is gathered. If the ceremony is held in a private location and the general public is not invited the performance of the wedding music is not public. That is particularly true for wedding ceremonies held within the context of a church. A wedding conducted in such a setting may fall under the copyright exceptions for a worship service. As long as the music has been obtained legally, you are allowed to play it in the ceremony. If you are planning for the ceremony to be in a place that is open to the public, you may need to find ways to avoid infringement under copyright law.

Likewise, under most circumstances, your wedding reception is not a public event. If the venue that hosts your reception only has people associated with your reception in attendance and your reception is limited to your family or your social acquaintances, then your reception would not be a public performance. However, you may be hosting your reception in a venue that is considered public, where others outside of your guests will be able to hear the music. Under these circumstances the venue would be wise to secure a general performance license to cover the songs that are going to be played.

There is another use of music that can be a problem under copyright law; songs that are played and captured on a wedding video or songs that are inserted as background music on a video compilation of pictures or video clips. In both cases, the song is, at the very least, being reproduced and may likely be published for public use as well, particularly if the video is uploaded to Facebook or YouTube. A separate license would be required for each of these uses. Further, there may be more than one entity from which a license must be secured. Often a song is written by one artist and performed or published by someone else.

According to sites that discuss issues related to videographers, there has been a marked increase in the number of lawsuits that have been filed for copyright infringement related to wedding videos. If you intend to record any songs that are part of your ceremony or reception or you want certain music as a background to be inserted into a video, you might want to address these issues with your videographer. It is much cheaper to purchase a license than it is to defend or settle a lawsuit.

For legal matters related to copyright contact Ivie Law Firm, PLLC by clicking HERE.