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July 2010

Using Snippets of Music in Your Film

If your film is a documentary or news piece that comments on music (whether your comment is positive or negative), you may be entitled to use segments of the music to illustrate your point. If your film is a fiction narrative and the characters happen to be discussing a particular piece of music, whether that can be considered fair use is a bit more of a gray area.

United States Copyright law (in 17 U.S.C. § 107) contains a provision for “fair use of a copyrighted work” for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research. This provision allows, among other things, journalists and critics to quote passages of a work in their reportage on that work.

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