What constitutes infringement of a music copyright?

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What constitutes infringement of a music copyright?

I am a realtor and every year, I make a Christmas mix CD for my friends. I am thinking about giving the disc away as a promo for my real estate work, but I worry that I will get into copyright issues. Am I OK as long as I am giving it away free? Or does giving a free mix CD for promotional purposes get me into a copyright issue? The songs on the mix disc are various Christmas songs (old and new) from my Christmas music CD collection.

Asked on June 28, 2011 under Business Law, Arizona

Answers:

M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

There are many layers to this question and it is not as cut and dry as one might think.  Copyright infringement (or copyright violation) is defined as "the unauthorized use of material that is protected by intellectual property rights law particularly the copyright in a manner that violates one of the original copyright owner's exclusive rights, such as the right to reproduce or perform the copyrighted work, or to make derivative works that build upon it."  There are certain exceptions like work that is so old it is deemed to be in the public domain or what is known as the "fair use" doctrine which is any copying of copyrighted material done for a limited and “transformative” purpose, such as to comment upon, criticize, or parody a copyrighted work.  Think free speech and Saturday Night Live or use by a school in teaching.  The intended use of the work is a key as well as is the economic benefit derived.  Although I highly doubt that you would be targeted by any of the artists on the CD for infringement I might think twice about using the CD's as a promotional tool.  Maybe try a refrigerator magnet instead. Good luck.  


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