Hi everyone! I'm working on my new reel and I want to use music I like that's copyrighted and commercial. Is this within fair use? Thanks!

Copywrite and Fair Use of Music.


  • It’s fine! Instagram and youtube might scream at you. If you use vimeo links on your portfolio there will be no issues at all. It’s not for profit, so fair use indeed
  • You'd be better off checking someone like Kevin McLeod who has a huge bank of music in all genres that he'll happily let anyone use. https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/
  • @Caroline Larrain I don't know if Vimeo uses algorithms like YouTube. Film studios, and some record labels, pay YouTube to scan content for anything that is from their catalogue. It's a kind of copyright infringement detection service, but it only picks up things it's looking for, and not everyone is willing to pay YouTube for that service, so many pieces of music escape detection. If you are going to do what everyone else seems to be doing with their demo reels, and take the risk, then maybe post the music in a video you do not care about and wait to see if it gets noticed before you use it on your actual reel. Not that I'm recommending that.

    I know what you mean about music libraries: the music tends to be written specifically for music libraries. It's more 'prescriptive' and less an artists genuine expression of something, so it might not have as much feeling in it. As for midi, we are in the age now where almost anyone can play any instrument via a computer, but nothing digital can come close to real musicians playing their hearts out.

    An often ignored resource is soundcloud. Artists there are often expressing themselves in a genuine way, they want their music to be heard, and you can contact them directly if you find something you like. Artists are often generous with their work so long as you are not going to be directly making money from it. Record labels and production companies are a whole other matter. Unless you manage to talk to someone fairly high up, you are just going to be offered song licensing options.

    If your heart is set on the music you have, then just pursue it: Tweet the artist, see how high up you can get with the production company (start with the easiest to contact person you can find), be extremely complimentary and put your case well. You never know until you have asked (more than once and more than one person).

    Otherwise, @Joseph Bell because really you can't get better than music written specifically for the video it accompanies.

    Bon courage and have a great weekend,
  • @fernando sobron Hi Fernando, thanks for your answer! Yes, from the perspective of self promotion you're completely right. So many reels online seen to be using music from big labels though! I'm not sure how that seems to work as effectively @Oliver Nash mentioned Youtube and other video content sites are reinforcing copyright law (Potentially YouTube is as in it's 'small type' if you upload content on a free account YouTube acquires some sort of right over your work ).

    I'll certainly see if contacting the copyright holder is possible. I haven't done this before, any advice?

    Kind regards and have a nice weekend!

  • @Oliver Nash

    Many thanks for your feedback!

    Yup it's for a demo of my work, it would be on Vimeo. I've made a career change and am trying to get my filmmaking work seen. As a former unicersity lecturer I know how much the right tone and type of music will impact a reel.

    By 'copyighted and commercial' I do mean for sale, but mostly with a legal copywrite by music companies or artists or 'the industry'. Regarding TV in the UK up tp 10% of the length of the material could be considered fair use if it qualifies for non-commercial use. And there's an international measure of 5 sec. of fair use for any type of purpose (or at least the arts are considered in these 5 secs.).

    Your advice about Youtube is really good! Makes complete sense.

    I've been looking for royalty free music but it tends to be rather generic or I hear the MIDI element standing out. I'll check out your suggestions.

    Have a great weekened and thanks for your time and advice!

  • Hi Caroline,

    Is this for a demo reel of your work? Is it going to go on YouTube?
    By 'copyighted and commercial' do you mean the music is available for sale (e.g. a track by a commerical recording artist)?

    Assuming 'fair use' when it comes to music is not something where there are set rules. It almost always involves some kind of risk assessment (how likely am I to be legally challenged). If the music is copyrighted and for sale (e.g. a pop song) it is almost certain you would need a license to use it legally on anything business-related.

    If you are going to put your reel on YouTube, and it contains commercial copyrighted music, then YouTube may flag it and possibly block it. If the copyright owner allows use on YouTube then you may find ads on your video, the revenue from which will go to the copyright owner of the music.

    It's a bit of a minefield. Usually easier to search one of the royalty-free music libraries such as: https://filmstro.com/music or https://www.audiolibrary.com.co/ or https://audiojungle.net/category/music

    Hope this is of some help.

    Stay safe and well,
  • Hi Caroline,

    As per Fernando's reply, if the copywriter holder isn't forthcoming with usage then I'd be happy to write something bespoke along whatever lines you're thinking of heading?

    Check out my portfolio site at www.josephbellmusic.co.uk to hear examples.

    Best, Joseph
  • Unfortunately, no, it isn't. You would be using music for a promotion (that of your work). Ask the copyright holder, maybe they are good sports and allow you.

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