How to get legal permission to use a copyrighted song?

My employer is a registered charitable organisation. We have decided on using an existing recording of a song as a theme for a series of activities we are planning next year. The song is commonly available for purchase. We are hoping to use the song in internal and external events; some of the events and materials may include promotions of our services and/or fundraising. What steps do we need to take to ensure we are not infringing on the song creator’s copyright? Should we approach the copyright holder?

Asked on November 13, 2012 under Business Law, Ohio


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

The ONLY way to get permission to use a copyrighted song for a purpose like this is by getting the permission of the copyright rights holder. You have to approach the rights holder and get them to allow you to use the song. Since you are charitable, they may do so for free; or they may charge you some fee; or the have the right to simply refuse outright if they want, the way some musicians have refused to let political parties use their songs.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.