Setting the tone: Legal use of Music for your VR Videos & 11 sources for it

music in your VR video?

There are many reasons you may opt to replace your VR videos audio with a music track. Audio that you capture live may be noisy in ways that you don’t want, or contain copyrighted music you can’t use. (More on this later). You may be able to edit or filter out the issues, but it may just be a simpler solution to replace the audio with music. A musical soundtrack is also a great way to tie together disparate clips or set an overall mood for your video. You may know the perfect song you want to use in your video, but unfortunately, it’s not as simple as that. Even if you legally purchased a song that doesn’t automatically give you the right to use that song in your video.

Copyrights of Music and why you can’t ignore them

Before we get into it, a quick disclaimer: I am not a Lawyer. This article contains general information about legal matters. This information is not to be taken as legal advice, and should not be treated as such. If you have any specific questions about any legal matter, you should consult your attorney or other professional legal services providers.

Copyright is the legal right given in the US and many other countries that give the creator of an original work the exclusive rights to its use and distribution. This is seen by many as a limitation to free creativity, but remember that copyright also gives you the same rights to your original work being used in ways you don’t want, so it is a benefit to everyone. When you “buy” a song on physical media or as an online download you are purchasing a license for personal, non-commercial use of that song. This does not give you the right to use this song in your own works.

Now, you may have heard that you can still legally use music under the 30-second rule, fair use or from a public performance. First, there is no such thing as a 30-second rule, or any other amount of time that you automatically have the right to use a work, it’s a widely told myth. Fair use is a legal right to use copyrighted material without permission; however, it’s not going to cover the kind of use we are looking for. Fair use generally covers use cases like commentary, criticism, parody or “transformative” use. Since we are looking to play music over a VR video, fair use isn’t going to cover what we want to do. Public performances of music played live or prerecorded music played in a public place has no special protection from copyright.

If you ignore copyright and use the music you want without permission, you are going to be very limited in what you can do with your final VR video. Social media sites like YouTube and Facebook, where you are going to want to share your creation have automatic music detection and if the original creator has registered their creation with the site it is going to get flagged in violation of copyright. The copyright holder may take away your ability to monetize the work, restrict what countries it can be shown in or have it taken down altogether. If you try and host it privately you are likely to be still caught by a music publishing company; these are constantly looking for violations, and they will file a takedown notice with the hosting company. Although rare, you could even be sued for infringement of copyright and be forced to pay damages. Bottom line: it’s not worth ignoring copyright so let’s look at the legal options.

Legal options for Music in your VR videos

Asking for permission from an artist is always an option, and a good one, if you are looking to use a work by an independent artist. However if an artist is under contract with a publishing company you are likely going to be asked to pay a royalty, a license fee for each use or per volume sold. As you can imagine this can add up quickly and isn’t really an option, unless you are a large studio that can absorb that cost.

Royalty Free, Creative Commons, and Public Domain

More affordable options include Royalty Free, Creative Commons, and Public Domain. With Royalty Free, you generally pay a one-time fee (sometimes free) to use a song however you like, within whatever terms are set at the time of purchase. Creative Commons are original works that the creator has released for the public to use for free, with some set of conditions, usually giving the creator credit. Public Domain is work that is free from copyright. The copyright has either expired or been lost by the owner or creator so you can use the work however you’d like without any kind of permission needed.

11 great sources for Royalty Free, Creative Commons & Public Domain Music for your VR videos

Below is a short list of sites that host Royalty Free, Creative Commons, Public Domain or some mix of the three that you can use in your VR Videos, and not worry about having issues. I hope this has helped clear up some of the confusion and misinformation about using copyrighted music in your VR Videos and given you some good alternatives. - This is my personal favorite royalty free site, it has a good selection of songs (but not so many that it’s overwhelming) with most songs also being free to use. - Yes, that Moby

About the Author:

Rob Crasco is an independent Virtual Reality, Virtual World & 360 Video Influencer / Developer / Consultant. Background in computer science and marketing, worked for AT&T, Ziplink, News Corp, and iBasis. Decade of experience in virtual worlds, top 10 rated VR & AR influencer.