Why Not Just Use Popular Music in Your Production?
In order to use a popular
piece of music from the latest charts (or even a golden oldie) in any
production, you need to obtain permission from the copyright holder in the form
of a synchronization license.
It can be a long, tedious and expensive process to get permission to use a
popular song. If you can't live without a particular song, be prepared to
search for and negotiate with the composer or publisher and the performers and
owners of the recordings. You will find that some music is virtually
unobtainable: the artist may not want to be viewed as endorsing a product or
idea, or the musicians' union may have placed restrictions on reuse of the song
outside of the entertainment field. And even if you are able to get permission
to use the song, it may well be unaffordable.
While obtaining a synchronization license for a popular piece of music is quite
an expensive proposition, keep in mind that using the music without the proper
license in place will leave you open to liability for copyright infringement
and other actionable claims under international copyright laws. That will cost
you several times more than the original license fees would have cost.
Music that has been around for years may still be covered by copyright and may
not be in the public domain. Seventy years after the composer's death (not the
publication of the music) is the norm for many countries; some have even longer
copyright protection periods. Even if a piece of music is in the public domain,
you do not have the right to use an already published version of the song; the
rights to that version belong to its publisher. Essentially, you would need to
publish your own version of the song: either by recording it yourself or by
hiring someone else to do it for you. Either of these options can also be
expensive. To complicate the public domain issue further, a later version of a
composition or the addition of lyrics can even change the status of a piece of
music that was in the public domain - it may move back into the copyright
category because of these changes.