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Film and Video Institute

The world of non-commercial film and A-V


Most of this information is UK-specific. Laws and customs may be different in other countries.

Copyright and Licensing - introduction | FAQs | IAC Licensing

In practice how do we avoid copyright problems?

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Library music

Many professionals use a vast range of recordings offered by specialist companies. Most of it is played on real instruments rather than synthesisers.

Such firms do not normally sell to the public but IAC members can get advice on what is available and buy library music through our Music Advisory Service.

To use the music you need the clearances in IAC's Copyright Scheme.

You can try to buy music rights from music publishers - but at a very high price. For non-commercial movie makers there are four practical answers:

Write and play your own music or find someone to do it for you.

Use "royalty free" music CDs sold specially for use by film makers.

Join IAC and use its licence scheme:

  • to buy "library" music from specialist suppliers.

  • and the Musicians Union agreement to employ commercial music in your work.

Photo of fingers on an organ keyboard.






  Some musicians are keen to try their hand at writing for movies, so ask around. For them a copy of your movie will become part of their portfolio. Make sure you get a written agreement to use their work for your movie. Check our Small Ads pages - sometimes musicians offer their services there.

Commercial Music

Sometimes you may be able to use a commercial recording in your movie.

To do so you must join IAC, buy licences in our Copyright Clearance Scheme. This gives you clearance for private use and/or exhibition to a non-paying audience.

However, commercial exploitation will require the prior consent of the Musician's Union. In such cases, or if you have any queries, please contact the Media Department of the Musicians' Union on 020 7840 5556.

Make your own music

If you can play an instrument consider this approach. There are also computer music generating programs which can give very good results with some ingenuity on your part. But since such programs depend on music samples recorded by professionals do check what the licence with the program allows you to do with it.

Some film makers - especially animators - use the simple music tools which come free with most computers to make appropriate sounds. (Part of Albert Noble's fascinating guide to creating animation simply and cheaply deals with this - rent his tutorial from our Video Library.)

Royalty Free music

This comes in CD collections or as downloads. They cost more than normal music - but for this you get a whole set of rights to use it in your work without further charge. (Check carefully exactly what rights each company offers.)  

There are also websites with free royalty free music.

For most  of us this is a cost-effective and easy solution. There is a lot of choice and prices are reasonable.

Find music suppliers in our Movie Making Links page.

Copyright and the other licensing required is a minefield
but IAC can help you through it.

Most of this information is UK-specific. Laws and customs may be different in other countries. Any copyright owner can refuse permission without explanation. This can happen, for example, if the managers of an artist think a film brings the artist into disrepute.

Picture on this page comes from Stock.XCHNG - by Manu Mohan.