That Perfect Song… On YouTube.
Music speaks to our souls. There is no denying when you find that perfect song for your first dance. But what happens when that perfect song is on YouTube, or Spotify? For the DJ, that is when things get murky. This is why picking legal music is a topic that really needs to be discussed.
Legal Music and Copyright, The Basics Of It All
I have talked at a significant length on the topic of copyright in this article. If you want to learn the history of copyright it’s a fascinating topic to dive into. Oversimplifying it all, not every song that is out there is technically legal for a DJ to play. If the song is completely original, and the artist has given everyone the right to access it, life is awesome. Pass go and collect $200.
But if the song is a cover song… well… now there are some things to be aware of. There are a number of licenses that need to be obtained by the artist in order to legally distribute that song. There is a chance that the cover song has not gone through the rigors of getting those licenses.
Can’t The DJ Just Get The License?
Because of the complexities of US copyright law, the simple answer is no. The more complicated answer is the venues (or promoters) are legally on the hook for one specific part of licensing, but that is only to play legal music on their premises or location of the event. There are the additional licenses required by those making these cover songs, and only the artists or their representatives that can obtain those licenses.
Can’t You Just Play It On Spotify
I’ve had wedding couples ask me if I can just play the song directly off of YouTube, Spotify, etc.. Unfortunately, this is not legal with not only copyright law, but it also violates the End User License Agreement. The EULA is that that thing we all click on blindly whenever we use a service or buy a piece of software. Yes, it even applies to music.
The Legal System
Now I do want to make a point clear. There have been few instances of legal actions taken against the venue, DJ, or couple. But the teeth on these violations are very severe. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA- the organizing body that manages this whole thing) has a history of going after seemingly random people to make a point and the fines are upwards to $150,000 per violation. So while one can “get away” with doing this, it does open up the doors for potential legal action. And most DJs really want to just do the right thing. I know I do.
Summing This All Up
In the end, I don’t think any couple out there wants to put their DJ or anyone in legal peril. Frankly, copyright law is so draconian that even the most law-abiding DJs out there are still almost certainly doing something wrong, despite our best efforts.
If you have found that special song that is only available on YouTube, Spotify, or other locations, proceed with caution. Younow you know that obtaining that song may not be legal music.