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Do you need to clear music rights for your social media advertising campaigns? – Entertainment Law Asked & Answered



Do you need to clear music rights for your social-media advertising campaigns?

Hi, I'm attorney Gordon Firemark, and this is Asked and Answered, where I answer your entertainment law questions, to help you take your career and business to the next level.

Andrew wrote in with this question:

I work at an LLC Production Company, we are looking into paid advertisement that tries to get the viewer to come to our website or to contact us about work through Facebook and google platforms. We are not really sure how to navigate through the music licensing channels and wanted to ask: In terms of agreements for paid ads specifically through Facebook and other social media platforms (not including TV or radio) that are only to get our name out there to help get clientele do we need the full rights to a song? And, if not ,what do we need if it is only through social media platforms (Facebook and Instagram)? What exactly are the parameters when it comes to us being at risk of legal action if we were to use a song for our LLC's work reel?

I’m afraid you WILL need to get proper music licenses for the songs and recordings you use in your demo materials.

Using someone else's copyright protected material, (like a song or a recording) is copyright infringement. Plain and simple. Getting exposure for your business is a commercial use, and that's the kind of thing that draws lawsuits. The risk of getting sued is high, and the liability if you DO get sued can easily climb into the hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars. But even if you aren't sued, you could spend all that time, money, and energy putting together your ads, and then find yourself on the receiving end of DMCA Takedown notices from the copyright owners.

So, even if you're only doing a few Facebook or Instagram ads, you'll want to do things right by getting license for the music you use.

Now, The process isn’t difficult but it’s somewhat complex and mostly just time-consuming.

First of all, remember that with recorded music, there are TWO copyrights to think about. First there's the song itself… That's what the composer and lyricist (songwriter) created.. And it's probably owned or controlled by a music publishing company; and Second, there's the so-called “master” recording… what the recording artist producer and engineers have created. That'll likely be controlled by the record label.

So, you need to track down the owner of each musical composition and each recording, and ask for the specific permission / license you need. For the song, you want a “synch” license, and for the recording, a “master use license”. You’ll probably be asked to submit the request in writing, or by email or in an online form… and you'll need to be specific about exactly how much (how many seconds) and which part of the song is being used, in what context, and the nature of the visuals to which it’s being attached. Then, the owners will (eventually) give you a quote, and if you agree to their proposed pricing, they’ll issue a license.

You’ll do this for each piece of music you use.

This is why many folks use music from a production-music library where they can purchase one-time buy-out licenses at very nominal fees for tracks you can use for demos, temp editing, etc.

Or, you could hire a composer to write music specifically for your projects. But be sure if you do that, that you get the deal in writing, and that the terms are crystal clear about ownership and payment.

All right.. That's it for this session. I'm Gordon Firemark, and If you have a question you'd like to see here on Asked and Answered, just visit and let me know.

See you next time!

This is intended as general information only and does not establish an attorney-client relationship. It is not a substitute for a private, independent consultation with an attorney selected to advise you after a full investigation of the facts and law relevant to your matter. We will not be responsible for viewers'’ detrimental reliance upon the information appearing in this feature.

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