Using copyrighted music in your marketing videos

Using copyrighted music in your marketing videos

As we continually search for a new or creative way to promote our businesses and products, video is undoubtedly the best way to engage consumers in a more in-depth way through a combination of both visuals and sound.  A catchy riff or background music can make all the difference in how effective your video is received.

However, using music in your promotional videos has its risks – though copyright breaches are often considered a low priority, copyright laws in Australia could be considered quite tough compared to those in countries such as the U.S. and it is enforced quite rigorously on video streaming platforms such as Youtube.

Did you know that even if you use only a small part of a copyrighted song, it could be a breach of copyright?  Australian copyright laws tend to determine infringement of musical works by considering whether the whole or a “substantial” part of the musical work has been infringed.

However, “substantial” does not necessarily refer to the number of chords taken or the number of seconds of song that has been used – if the part taken is easily recognisable, it can be considered a “substantial” part as it has taken the essence of the work.  This was the case in the well-known Kookaburra case, where the owners of the song ‘Down Under’ by Men at Work were found to have infringed upon the rights of Larrikin music, who owns the rights to the song ‘Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree’.  The ‘Down Under’ song only used two bars of the Kookaburra song in their flute riff, but it was still considered a “substantial” part of the music.

While using copyrighted music may only waste a few hundred dollars or hours of your time by having a video taken down or deleted, it has escalated to court in cases such as in the case above. Therefore, it is always best to check that the music you are using is not infringing copyright – don’t get stuck with hefty legal fees for something that can be avoided with the right knowledge.

If you need advice regarding your business’s legal obligations in marketing activities, contact me on 1300 033 934 or email me at for a no-obligation chat.