That Perfect Song… On YouTube.
Music speaks to our souls, and there is no denying when you find that perfect song for your first dance, or your ceremony processional, or whichever big part of your wedding, that you just gotta have it. But what happens when that perfect song is on YouTube, or Spotify, or one of the other many streaming services out there. Well for the DJ, that is when things gets murky.
Copyright, The Basics Of It All
I have talked at significant length on the topic of copyright in this article (so if you want to learn the history of copyright it’s a fascinating topic to dive into) but to oversimplify it all, not every song that is out there is technically legal for a DJ to play. Sure, if the song is completely original and the artist has given everyone the right to download it for free or pay for it, life is awesome and you have your song.
But if the song is a cover song… well… now there are some things to be aware of. There are a number of licenses that needs to be obtained by the artist in order to legally distribute that song. There is a chance that the cover song has not gone through the rigors of getting those licenses.
Can’t The DJ Just Get The License?
Because of the complexities of US copyright law, the simple answer is no. The more complicated answer is the venues (or promoters) are legally on the hook for one specific part of licensing, but that is only to play legal music on their premises or location of the event. There are the additional licenses required by those making these cover songs, and only the artists or their representatives that can obtain those licenses.
Can’t You Just Play It On Spotify
I’ve had a couple wedding couples ask me in the past if I can just play the song directly off of YouTube, Spotify, or whichever service it is on. Unfortunately, this is not legal with not only copyright law but it also violates the End User License Agreement (EULA, that thing we all click on blindly whenever we use a service or buy a piece of software).
Who Really Gets Sued?
Now I do want to make a point clear. There have been few instances of legal actions taken against the venue, DJ, or couple. But the teeth on these violations are very severe and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA- the organizing body that manages this whole thing) has a history of going after seemingly random people to make a point and the fines are upwards to $150,000 per violation. So while one can “get away” with doing this, it does open up the doors for potential legal action against them. And most DJs really want to just do the right thing.
Summing This All Up
In the end I don’t think any couple out there wants to put their DJ or anyone in legal peril. And frankly copyright law is so draconian that even the most law-abiding DJs out there are still almost certainly doing something that violates current standing law, and it would be so refreshing if this was properly addressed for our industry. But if you have found that special song that is only available on YouTube, Spotify, or other locations, now you know that obtaining that song may not be legal.
Biography: Lou Paris has been DJing since 1988 and has a deep passion for music of all styles and genres and became a wedding DJ in 2012. Coincidentally, Lou is also a successful 20+ year IT professional and has merged many technology concepts to ensure a successful night of entertainment. Click here to learn more about Lou's background and if you find this content interesting contribute to my Patreon.