Music Video Liability and Use

'Is it legal', 'can I do this' type questions and discussions.
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Music Video Liability and Use

Post by Jason10 »


I'm directing a music video for a band. However the song is a cover version, so naturally the band should get permission.

What I want to know is if they didn't get permission and I was paid for my work on the video, would it only be them liable? I assume it would be as I'm just being hired for the video work, while they would be selling the video itself (if they do) and would be the owners of the video, while I wouldn't.

Also would I be able to still use the video to promote myself as a director, i.e edit it into a showreel, would fair use, or incidental use cover this?

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Post by AndyJ »

Hi Jason,
There are two separate aspects to this.
First: obtaining clearances. As the director (or producer) of the video it is your responsibility to get, or to ensure that the band has got, the necessary clearances to use other people's copyright material. You can find more details here: ... clearances
Secondly, as the director you automatically own the copyright in the video, so it is up to you to make it clear in your agreement with the band whether you are transferring your copyright to them entirely (this is called assigning and needs to be done in writing) or merely giving them a licence to use the video. If you give them a licence, it can either be exclusive (only they are permitted to use the video) or non-exclusive, which would mean you could also exploit the video. From what you say, it sounds as if you are happy to give them an exclusive licence which allows you to use the video only for self-promotion purposes. Alternatively you could assign the copyright to the band on the understanding that they then licence you to use it just in your showreel.
It is fairly unlikely that any of the fair dealing exemptions would apply here. Incidental inclusion would definitely not apply, and for your showreel to be worthwhile, I suggest that the amount of the band video you need to include would fail the substantiality test.
Advice or comment provided here is not and does not purport to be legal advice as defined by s.12 of Legal Services Act 2007
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