Music for a good mourning
December 4, 2009 6:18 PM   Subscribe

Copyright issues with memorial DVDs?

I recently produced a DVD of photographs and music for a friend of a friend's funeral. None of the photographs were professional, but the music was from my personal collection of mp3s. As I was not paid for this, I didn't give it a second thought. Now, however, the funeral director has contacted me asking whether I can provide this service to his clients. What issues are there with scanning professional photos (there's bound to be a couple in every set) and buying music to use as a soundtrack? Where do I start to look for this information? If the client provides me with the mp3s to embed, is that okay?

I'm in Australia and I have read the 31 music + copyright questions
posted by b33j to Law & Government (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Not an Australian copyright lawyer but here are my thoughts. You can do this for individuals. Doing it commercially has no future, not now anyway. If you did this on a one off basis and didn't ever expect to make a living, you have little to worry about. One such project a month seems hardly either a moral or enforcement issue. Though yeah, probably technically illegal. But as what you're discussing is a very socially valuable thing, I think you might consider doing it anyway. Sounds like you're good at it, and the comfort you're offering is a little more important than the presumed royalty and licensing responsibilities inherent in this particular endeavor.
posted by Toekneesan at 6:54 PM on December 4, 2009

Best answer: A call to the licensing services section of APRA (Australian Performing Rights Association - ph: 1300 852 388) could help clear up your music questions.
posted by Kerasia at 6:54 PM on December 4, 2009 [2 favorites]

I know its not legal, but plenty of people do it. The worst you'll get is a cease and desist letter, like when youtube just takes down the music on your video. I know wedding videographers do it all the time.
posted by mattsweaters at 7:27 PM on December 4, 2009

Best answer: Be sure to search for Creative Commons-licensed music.
posted by Gridlock Joe at 7:44 PM on December 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

The worst you'll get is a cease and desist letter

I have a lot of experience with copyright law and this is almost certainly bad advice. While you may only get a C&D, to say that it's the "worst" that will happen to you is absolutely false. People have gotten sued by record labels and the RIAA for doing much less. Keep in mind that you would essentially be profitting off of this activity and the likelikhood of a greater penalty increases exponentially.
posted by dhammond at 9:58 PM on December 4, 2009

You won't be able to get the person's favourite song, necessarily, but there are often pieces of music specifically composed and licensed for this sort of use.

This list, for example, is music licensed to an organization for memorial DVDs and slideshows created by their volunteers. Of course, these are specific to infant loss, and taking them for your purposes wouldn't be any better than yo ho ho-ing stuff off a CD, but it shows an example of something you could try.

You could approach musicians and composers to see if they'd like to donate/volunteer. Church musicians might be willing to record classical music for you, or you can find lots of public domain stuff on

I hope this works out for you!
posted by Sallyfur at 12:47 AM on December 5, 2009

Response by poster: More answers welcome but the site Kerasia linked to has been very useful and it looks like (depending on the circumstances) it might be okay. I've sent an email in to check, and if I can't do it for free, the licensing amount is small enough to be passed onto the client. Thanks to Gridlock Joe I found a site with royalty free music that will allow me to use it for demo purposes provided credit is given. Thanks to everyone who answered. Much appreciated.
posted by b33j at 6:25 AM on December 5, 2009

I have a lot of experience with copyright law and this is almost certainly bad advice.

true, true. No one I know has had any legal issues past a c&d, but its certainly possible to. I think that's better wording.

You can get royalty free music, where you pay for it to be used in your project. They'll probably be to expensive for how much they're paying you though.
posted by mattsweaters at 6:27 AM on December 5, 2009

Response by poster: I sent an email to the licensing services section of APRA as recommended by Kerasia and they were incredibly helpful, and even sent me licensing forms. For about $500 per year, I'm covered for all licensing of APRA and ARIA covered music, or I can choose to go with about $52 per event. This is called a Domestic Use Video Licence. Thanks very much, Kerasia. Your post was spot on.
posted by b33j at 9:15 PM on December 7, 2009

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