The Legal Rundown of a Remix

Remixing music, at best, is a grey area.

remixSo how can musicians make sure they’re not breaking the law with their remix of another artist’s song?

DJs and other artists often remix preexisting music, taking advantage of the popularity and structure of previously recorded songs to create something new, though typically derivative. Taking someone else’s work and using it for one’s own artistic gain is, as previously mentioned, an iffy proposition, but is popular among musicians of a certain variety.

Permission the best defense

The best way to ensure that it is legally OK when it comes to remixing another artist’s work is to simply ask permission from the owner of the master. This offers musicians the best route to avoid legal trouble, though it is smart to retain copies of all communications just in case. However, sometimes the owner will deny permission, which is one reason why some artists choose to remix music without permission.

Technically, the practice of remixing a song without permission is a copyright violation. However, artists can choose to cite fair use. This means that the remix is not derivative of the original work, but instead builds on it to create something new and original, Spin Academy explained. There is no way of knowing exactly how a court will rule in these cases though, which means musicians who use this argument to defend their remixes are taking a chance.

Live sets also raise issues

Another issue that may arise for DJs who specialize in remixes is playing their songs live at clubs or bars. A license for performance rights is typically required, according to FindLaw. However, musicians are not usually expected to pay for these permits – that is the responsibility of the venue. DJs should check up on performance rights at bars or clubs before they perform, to avoid any sort of legal situation regarding their sets.

If you’re unsure about how to approach remixing a song, speak with an entertainment law attorney for more information.

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Anthony R. Caruso is a business transactional attorney in New York and New Jersey with experience in structuring, negotiation and completion of legal deals involving business, entrepreneurs, athletes and performers.

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