The short and safe answer to your question is no, it is not legal for
you to use commercial music in your home movies. You can use some
music found on the internet where the artist clearly gives permission,
but for almost all popular music this is not the case.
The longer answer is that you will probably be OK doing so, and some
people will even argue that it is perfectly legal for you to do so.
Under the fair use: "Personal use also permits music fans to make "mix
tapes" or compilations of their favourite songs from their own
personal music collection or the radio for their own personal
enjoyment in a more convenient format, or "format shifting.""
Some people will argue that the above can be extended on the slippery
slope to include music used for other personal, non-commercial
My personal philosophy is that if it isn't being used for commercial
purposes, and if it is quite clear that no commercial use is likely to
come out of it, (for example, a personal video being uploaded to the
internet where someone might make money out of advertisements etc.)
you will generally be fine. No music company/artist is going to sue
you when there are hundreds of thousands of cases of people uploading
music and/or using music inappropriately for commercial purposes. They
don't have the resources to do so, nor would they want the bad
Recently, the RIAA has started sending cease and desist letters to
users who use music or video clips and post them to sites like
I differentiate this from home movies because when it is widely
available online, someone is making money off of it, and they are
trying to stop the slippery slope. While the people who make the home
movie don?t profit from it, if they upload their content to a site
like YouTube, they are saying that they have ownership of that content
(and transferring the right to YouTube to show it to thousands). If
the RIAA didn?t at least try to police this, it could become common
practice and they could lose some of their rights in that regard.
To further protect yourself, put some sort of label in the video that
it is for your personal use only and not meant for viewing outside of
your family and friends. Use short clips whenever possible (not entire
songs) and don?t worry about it too much. While legally it is not
completely clear whether or not it is legal to use for personal use,
you would probably lose a civil case against the RIAA if only because
you didn?t have the massive resources that would be required to defend
yourself. You would probably be forced to settle out of court. The
worst right now is that cease and desist letters are being sent to
people who post their home videos on public sites for everyone on the
internet to view them.
I hope this helps. A clear answer again is ?no? to the question of
legality, but I wouldn?t worry about this for more than a few seconds
in your case.
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