Can I use 15 seconds of a copyrighted song?

I’ve been designing a map with a game editor (Not Minecraft) for over a year now and it will all be in one Youtube video. I’m not using the music from the game and instead royalty free music except…

Can I get away with using the first 15 seconds of the overture from a Warner Bros. movie? Does anyone have experience using a short portion of a copyrighted song in a video they made? I’ve seen people do it in Let’s Plays which is playthroughs of games on Youtube. Still I just don’t know for sure.

If not, should it be okay to have a violinist play it for me? There are some drums in the background which would be difficult to match. Will Youtube pick it up if I have someone play nearly the exact same thing? Since it’s only 15 seconds it seems like it’s possible to find someone to play it with a music school at the college in my town.

Some people think that you can play a few seconds of a song and call it fair use. Generally speaking, that’s not true. There is no small amount of time that you can call fair use. If you play a few seconds as part of a critique video, then you might be able to claim fair use, but playing those same few seconds as just an intro to your own video would not be fair use.

If the copyright on the original overture has expired, then you can have someone else play it and you’ll be fine. If the original music is still under copyright though, just having someone else play it is not fair use.

If the original music’s copyright has expired, the performances of people playing that music are still copyrighted. In other words, if you have an overture that is public domain, but you find a copy of Bob’s Symphony playing it, you can’t just take Bob’s performance and use it in your music. You can have your own symphony play the music and you’re fine, but Bob’s performance is copyrighted.

These are two different questions.

The composition (the song), assuming it is copyrighted, is distinct from a recording of it. You can use the song, as performed by another artist, with payment to the copyright holder of the work, usually minimal if your distribution is minimal (not a major motion picture distributed world-wide).

Using the original recording involves licensing of the performance work, and will require permission and likely, payment for the use.

“Fair Use” is a slippery concept. Better to avoid legal actions if you can unless your pockets are deep and expandable.

Thanks, the movie is from the early 90s so I assume that the copyright has expired? Although I just saw the soundtrack removed from Youtube which is odd timing which makes me wonder if I had something to do with it listening to the first 15 seconds like a hundred times haha.

1890’s or 1990’s? Why would you assume that? Only works before ca. 1923 have expired copyrights, and if Disney prevails, nothing will ever expire, courtesy of SCOTUS logic.

@ Musicat,

Yes it’s a major movie released in the early 1990s, so I guess what you’re saying is that I can’t even have a violinist play it for me which is a shame. It would fit perfectly.

@ Musicat,

How would Youtube pick up someone else playing part of the song if it’s not exactly the same recording from the movie? This video may be viewed by thousands of people over time but not millions.

Not at all. If your violinist plays it for you, it is a new performance. You pay the violinist for his/her performance (I hope) and acquire the rights to use that performance.

The work is different. Once the work was originally recorded (long ago, I presume), anyone else can record it without permission as long as a royalty is paid to the composer/songwriter (that’s called “compulsory licensing”). Find out if the song is licensed with ASCAP, BMI or SESAC, then check with ASCAP, BMI, or SESAC for that – they have different rates for different circumstances.

Of course, if your eventual use is highly local, and unlikely to trigger a complaint by anyone, you can probably get by with – what would otherwise be – murder. Your choice. :slight_smile:

YouTube doesn’t care how many viewers there are for a work – that’s not a factor.

YouTube has some very sophisticated algorithms, and they are able to detect a different performance of a work on some occasions. This tends towards false positives (Stavinsky’s* Rite of Spring* performed by the Moscow Symnphony isn’t the same performance as the work performed by the London Symphony, but YouTube doesn’t know the difference and may serve up a copyright strike if not challenged).

I have challenged such claims where I knew I could win (and I always do), but it would be a bad idea to dispute one if you can’t back your bluff up.

So beware. Sound analysis has improved much over the past 40 years, especially if there is money or vindictiveness behind it.

If distributing your video is the primary objective, you might consider Vimeo or other Internet video sites who have different policies, or post it on your own server and hope for the best. Vimeo has accepted some videos of mine that YouTube rejected for copyright reasons.

Thanks for the info, I’m a bit confused now though. At first you said I could have another person(s) play it then you said if I did Youtube algorithm may pick it up.

I’m also drawing/painting a nude model from Met Art and including it in the video and her face possibly in the banner for the new channel I will make. With thousands of pictures on their site I’m hoping she would not be recognized. Clearly the photographer/site owns the rights to the picture it’s just that probably no one would figure it out.

It’s very difficult to draw/paint a detailed face without a reference and the kind of beauty I would like. It’s even more difficult to find a local woman that matches the looks of a model on Met Art. There are stock photography sites where you can buy the pictures except there is not nearly as much selection as a site like Met Art.

The YouTube search may indeed pick up a perceived similarity, but if you have the legal rights to the performance, you can dispute a bogus claim and win.

This doesn’t relieve you of paying royalties to the composer of the song.

You do understand the difference between performance and composition, don’t you?

As far as images go, I can’t help you there.

There are three possible combinations here:
[li]The composition and the recording are out of copyright. In this case, you can freely use the original recording in your video.[/li][li]The composition is out of copyright but the recording is still under copyright. In this case, you cannot use the recording without permission, but you are free to produce your own recording and use that instead.[/li][li]Both the composition and recording are still under copyright. In this case, you can use neither the composition nor the recording without permission, nor may you produce and use your own recording without permission of the composition’s copyright holder.[/li][/ol]
YouTube scans all uploads for potential copyright violations, and can mute or block your video if it suspects any wrongdoing. The scanning process is often sophisticated enough to detect when you have made your own recording of an in-copyright composition. However, it is also notorious for flagging false positives; even if you use an out-of-copyright recording, or produce your own recording of an out-of-copyright composition, there’s a very good chance that YouTube will flag it as infringing anyway. Your account could get suspended and/or you could be required to go through a humiliating “copyright school”. (I speak with the experience of someone who has uploaded hundreds of freely distributable classical music videos.)

If you want to incorporate a musical work into a video, you need what are called “synchronization rights” or “sync rights.” ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC administer performance rights, not sync rights. They cannot help you.

To get synchronization rights you must contact the publisher of the work.

There are two types of copyrights. One is on the actual work, which is the music composition. The other is on the audio master recording. In order to have someone else record the music for you, it would still require licensing which can be expensive.

Instead I encourage you to find a music composer to write a piece of music and license it to you for your own use. If you do this, you will end up with a better music to fit your project because it will be written especially for your music.

You also run the risk of copyright infringement and YouTube will end up taking your video down.

I have some experience with WB and copyrights.
I collected all Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies 1929-1960.

There were some that WB was VERY touchy about.
They really didn’t like my selling copies of them on ebay.

I think, at this point, they have given up trying to stamp out all the Youtube postings of them.

I use copyrighted songs in my Youtube videos sometimes and one time the audio got automatically removed. (it was Sepultura’s - Ratamahatta). Youtube gave me the ability to choose new background music from some choices.

Or you can use royalty-free music composed and recorded just for this kind of task. Google for “royalty-free music”. Some sites are free, some charge by the song or offer a blanket license. One good, high-quality site is ntracks, where you can preview any tune and purchase the unlimited use of it for an affordable fee. You can even download the original multi-tracks and re-mix it yourself. Pretty cool.

In the rare case that YouTube objects to ntracks music, ntracks will set them straight.

Unless you’re using public-domain or royalty-free music, there is almost zero chance that what you want to do is legal.

Fair use applies to a range of uses, but it does not apply to uses that mirror the intended artistic value of the song. You can excerpt to criticize a work, to create an educational video, and other uses, but what you want the music exactly for is for its artistic expression, and that is exactly not fair use. That is right in the middle of the wheelhouse of what copyright holders are meant to be allowed to demand payment for.

As others above have said, you must secure synchronization rights if you want to do this.