Using existing piece of music, with or without sound recordings
Type of use
Using existing piece of music, with or without sound recordings, in film, TV productions, podcasts, audiobooks, advertisements, etc., is commonly called synchronization. Think of the use of a song or instrumental piece in a scene of a TV show, a podcast, a video game, a corporate video or advertisement.
Warning: it is important to distinguish production and broadcasting. If you also broadcast the content you create, please refer to the Broadcast section.
What To Do
- Identify the rights holders of the piece of music you wish to synchronize. You can ask SOCAN if it can obtain the authorization to synchronize this piece of music for you.
- If you wish to use an existing sound recording of this piece of music, you will also need to identify the rights holders to the master copy of that piece of music.
- Contact the work’s publisher or SOCAN, whatever the case may be, to obtain the permission to synchronize that piece of music in your audiovisual content. Said permission will most likely be conditional to the payment of a fee to be negotiated.
- If you wish to use an existing sound recording of this piece of music, you will need to contact the rights holders in order to obtain the permission to synchronize this recording in your audiovisual content. Said permission will most likely be conditional to the payment of a fee to be negotiated.
- Be sure to obtain a synchronization licence in due form for the use of the musical work and its sound recording, if need be. Synchronization licences are only valid for the contexts, territories, scope and duration explicitly agreed upon with the rights holders. CLICK HERE to download a form with all the info you need to make a synch request more easily.
- In the case of a video that will only be monetized on a platform that includes a copyright management system such as YouTube’s Content ID, it is possible to obtain the required permissions directly through the uploading interface.
If you are not familiar with those procedures and fee negotiations, go through a copyright clearance company.
Clarifications and cautionary statement
There are differences—notably legal—between a piece of music and the support on which it is fixed, i.e. a sound recording, sheet music, a video, etc. This is why the rights holders to a piece of music can be different from the rights holders to its sound recording, video or any other mode of fixation. You must obtain the permission of all the rights holders to use their content.
It’s important to know that pursuant to moral rights, a songwriter can refuse that his work be used and that pursuant to their right to authorize or deny a reproduction, a publisher can also refuse any such request.
Producing and disseminating content are different things, even when the same entity is carrying out both activities. A producer needs a synchronization licence and the broadcaster needs performance and reproduction licences.
If your production is mainly focused on playing music, such as a podcast or music radio, you might not need a synchronization licence.
If you wish to extend the duration of an expired licence or add usage types to it, you will need to negotiate the terms of a new synchronization licence with all the rights holders.
The fees will vary depending on a multitude of factors: the context, the territory, the scope and duration of the use, as well as the notoriety of the musical work, of its creator and performing artist, etc. If, initially, you are unsure of all the possible types of exploitation that your audiovisual content will be subjected to, negotiate a basic fee for the planned exploitations and separate fees for the various other potential uses.
The material on this web site is provided for informational purposes only.