How To Legally Use Music In Your Videos

Posted on May 24, 2009

In my experience, Christian camp staffs and leaders want to do the right thing and model a good example for campers regarding upholding the laws of the land (1 Tim. 5:18). Often they don’t, however, due to lack of knowledge, confusion or the complexities in getting copyright clearances.

Today it’s much easier and quicker to obtain clearances through online licensing services. The VideoReady License from Christian Copyright Solutions (CCS) features pre-approved licensing for a selection of song tracks by popular Christian artists like Chris Tomlin, David Crowder, Kari Jobe, Lincoln Brewster and Third Day.

According to the U.S. Copyright Law, prior permission must be obtained from the owner of the song and the sound recording, which are two separate copyrights and often controlled by at least two different parties.

Camp leaders must understand that there are eight different “works of authorship” that can be copyrighted.  A song (or music) is just one type. Here’s what can be copyrighted:

  1. Songs (music and any accompanying lyrics)
  2. Sound recordings (audio recordings such as CDs and MP3s)
  3. Literary works (books, essays, articles, prose)
  4. Visual images (photographs, paintings, logos, maps)
  5. Audiovisual (film, TV, videos, etc.)
  6. Drama
  7. Choreography and pantomime
  8. Architecture

The owners of these copyrights have the exclusive rights to:

  1. Reproduce work (make copies in variety of formats, like CDs or Videos)
  2. Derivative work (arrangements, translations, adaptations)
  3. Distribute copies
  4. Performance (public performance of work – concerts, TV, radio, etc.)
  5. Public display
  6. Performance of a digital sound recording

Therefore, if you want to use copyrighted material in any of the six ways listed above, you must first obtain permission from the owner or their agent. Here are a few tips for camps to keep in mind in order to be copyright compliant:

  1. Identify any copyrighted material you want to use;
  2. Determine the copyright owner of the work you want to use. There are several websites that can help:,,,,,,
  3. Submit your permission request with detailed information about your project and how you want to use their material;
  4. Allow at least 6-8 weeks prior to production and manufacture of video or other material to obtain individual copyright licensing;
  5. Utilize all of the available blanket licenses for coverage (see below). Do not use copyrighted material without written (or at least verbal) permission;
  6. Include estimated royalty fees for use of copyrighted materials in your video budget;
  7. If overwhelmed or confused, contact a professional copyright clearance agency for help. 

  As always, post your questions and comments and we will do our best to give you the right answer.