Monday, June 1, 2009

Using Music from iTunes at a Website

Dear Rich: Can I use a piece of music that was downloaded from iTunes for a website I have? Is that legal? If not, how do I make it legal without costing an arm and a leg? I'm so glad you asked. The Dear Rich staff is not sure what an arm and a leg costs and the idea of valuing it and comparing it to a music license is confusing and disturbing since (1) valuation of loss of limbs is so difficult, (2) the valuation may be artificially tied to an insurance calculation, and (3) the valuation would be tripled if the loss involved substantial pain and suffering
Right, you had a question. The iTunes terms of service does not permit you to use downloaded music at your website (considered a "public performance" under copyright law). You can obtain a website license from ASCAP (around $300 minimum) or from BMI (less than $300, but dependent on traffic and revenue from your site). Of course, you can only license BMI artists from BMI and ASCAP artists from ASCAP. Each site lists their repertoire. Although it is risky (and you would still be subject to legal action) some sites bypass the permissions process. This may succeed if you stay below the legal radar of music publishers -- for example, by only playing the music at a low-trafficked noncommercial website, and by not offering downloads or any other tagged references to music that's playing.