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YouTube Star Sued For Copyright Infringement – Use Royalty Free Music, Folks!

By Hanssie on July 19th 2014

Whether you’re creating a wedding video or a slideshow of your images, music is one of the key elements to bring emotion and highlight your work. Without music, a scary movie isn’t quite as scary, a dramatic scene isn’t quite as dramatic. Music helps us tell the story.

When selecting your music to showcase your work, it might be tempting to use a popular song that’s currently hot on the radio, but DON’T DO IT. Not unless you have permission via a license from the record label to do so or you may be slapped with a major lawsuit like YouTube sensation Michelle Phan.

Michelle has built her empire to almost 6.7 million subscribers by offering makeup tips and tutorials. In some of her popular videos, she teaches viewers how to do their makeup like Lady Gaga (viewed over 46 million times) and Barbie (viewed over 54 million times) as your “beauty bestie.” She has even parlayed her fame into endorsement deals with major brands like Dr. Pepper and Lancome, as well as her own line of makeup. She reportedly made over 5 million dollars in 2013, but Michelle stands to lose quite a bit of money for using music from major artists like Kaskade, Calvin Harris and DeadMau5 without a license.

According to Reuters, in a lawsuit filed this week, Ultra Records alleges that Michelle was made aware that she needed a license to use the music, “and yet continues to willfully infringe in blatant disregard of Plaintiff’s rights of ownership.”

This is a good reminder for us to use royalty free music for our slideshows and cinema. Royalty free music is music that you can purchase the right to use for a small fee without having to pay royalties every time you use it. You may have seen some of the videos from SLR Lounge, which use royalty free music from The Music Bed or have read some of Pye’s features of amazing artists with royalty free music.  There are a some really great companies out there that offer royalty free music and here are a few I’ve had experience with. All of them have great selections for pretty reasonable prices.

1. The Music Bed

Pye reviewed The Music Bed last year:

2. Triple Scoop Music

Triple Scoop Music sponsors some amazing photographer events like Photographer’s Ignite:

3. SongFreedom

SongFreedom has a fun option called ‘Mixed Tapes’ where you can send your client a list of songs they like to choose from:

We photographers are outraged when we hear of or see our work used without permission, let’s also respect the copyrights of musicians and other artists who have also worked hard to hone their craft.

[Via Reuters, Michelle Phan YouTube, Photographer’s Ignite YouTube, SongFreedom YouTube – Images via screencaps]

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Hanssie is a Southern California-based writer and sometimes portrait and wedding photographer. In her free time, she homeschools, works out, rescues dogs and works in marketing for SLR Lounge. She also blogs about her adventures and about fitness when she’s not sick of writing so much. Check out her work and her blog at Follow her on Instagram

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Eduardo Garcia

    There are many royalty-free music sites where you can get great music for good prices, and some of them even have tracks that you can get for free, like

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  2. Michael Stagg

    As a visual artist, I respect the rights of other artists so there’s no way I could do something like that – because i wouldn’t want anyone doing it with my images/videos. I’m sure if someone took one of her images or videos and claimed it as their own she’d not be happy about it.

    In any case, great resources here. I was only aware of Triple Scoop Music. I’m glad I have a few other choices. Something else I’ve been considering is working with local bands and musicians to use their music – they get more people to hear their music, the client can feel great about supporting local artists and I get great music to use for my work – it’s wins all across the board!

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  3. Tom Bogan

    We as photographers see our images in non-licensed use get angry,but then turn around and make slide shows with non-licensed music think its ok.

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  4. Eric Sharpe

    As a music guy, I’m kind of on the side of, “pay for the license” camp.

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  5. Phil Bautista

    Thanks for the tip and suggestions. It needs to be emphasized that this applies more importantly if you intend to make money out of it. Non-profit use is usually tolerated. Usually.

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  6. Herm Tjioe

    Also because her YT profile is huge, easier mark to find to sue.

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  7. Greg Faulkner

    In the uk it’s really cheap to buy a licence to use any music by the major artists etc then you can use what
    you like including the chart stuff

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    Its advisable for people photographers or other artists to take the copyright really seriously a licence will cost less than a trip to the court house

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