General Question

Illuminat3d's avatar

Is using 15 sec or less of a musical piece or song "Fair use" ?

Asked by Illuminat3d (183points) October 8th, 2010
Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

5 Answers

Jeruba's avatar

I’m not an authority on the law, but I understand that quoting any part of a song in print requires permission because a song is such a short work that no part is too small to be considered significant. In other words, “fair use” doesn’t apply.

And that’s just about the lyrics. If you are thinking of excerpting a 15-second segment of a performance in something of your own—and 15 seconds seems to me like a pretty big chunk—I think you’d better be sure the owners of the rights are ok with that if you don’t want to run into problems.

weeveeship's avatar

I think there is fair use, like if you are sampling the song. There was a case about that involving a rapper, but I forgot the name.

poisonedantidote's avatar

As far as I understand, you can use up to 36 seconds, so long as it is for the purpose of parody or criticism only. i could be wrong

Tropical_Willie's avatar

No it is not. Copied from website on copyrights link

QUESTION—- Can I really use eight notes from a song without a license?

No; you must always obtain a license in order to use any sampled material for a commercial purpose. Many musicians believe that they may sample 4, 5 or 8 notes or bars of music without infringing any copyrights, but this is a myth. The length of a particular audio sample is not relevant in determining whether or not you must seek a license for its commercial use. Also, whether or not the sampled audio is easily recognizable does not matter; if your source audio was taken from another artist and you did not obtain a license, you are infringing that artist’s copyright. Contrary to what many believe, samples are not billed on a per-second basis. Instead, the overall impact of the sample along with all relevant commercial factors (such as your purpose in using the sample), are evaluated on a case-by-case basis in order to determine damages in the event of an infringement claim.

Dominic's avatar

@poisonedantidote That’s categorically false. There is no hard limit to the amount you can use for Fair Use to apply to you.

@Tropical_Willie Eight notes from a song may be infringement (I know nothing about Texas’s state copyright laws), but Fair Use is a defense to infringement. If you’re not doing something infringing, you won’t need to claim Fair Use. Nobody claims self-defense unless they actually hit someone else, right?

As for the question at large, the answer is “it depends” — it depends on what the song is, what part of the song you’re using, and what you’re going to use it for. The EFF has a really nice walkthrough of the Fair Use analysis: if you’re curious. But without more information, no one’s going to be able to help out.

Also, I’m not a lawyer, I’m not your lawyer, this isn’t legal advice; I’m just a guy who did well in his copyright class in law school.

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