Why You Can't Use Music On Your Web Site

You just can't use music on your website just because you feel like it

You don't see Fortune 1000 corporations using music on their Web sites unless they've paid for the right to do so. In fact, if I were given one dollar for every Fortune 1000 site that used music (not counting media companies), I probably couldn't buy lunch.

I wish some small business sites and personal sites exercised the same discretion. Somehow, the people behind these sites believe there's no legal problem with putting the theme from "The Godfather" on a collection agency site. Why?

Because people just don't understand the copyright laws. Period. At best, people think it's OK to play a MIDI version of "Stairway to Heaven" but wrong to play the original Led Zeppelin recording.

In one of the Daily Suckers from earlier this century, I discussed a marching band music company that was illegally using a music file ("Star Wars") on their site. This discussion caused someone "in the business" to send me an email explaining musical copyrights. Hopefully, after you read the explanation, you'll understand all the issues.

Working in copyright in a classical music publishing company for most of my adult life, I greatly enjoyed your Daily Sucker about the use of the Star Wars theme.

I track infringements on the Internet with some regularity. My company owns a couple of compositions that get infringed on all the time-most notably Carl Orff's "Carmina Burana." If you've seen any adventure movie trailer in the last ten years, you know the music. I just had the distinct pleasure of licensing its use in the trailer for the "South Park" movie!

From my 'insider' position, I can tell you that I think the reason people don't understand that the audio expression of music is something that can be 'owned' is because it isn't in a physical format, like the sheet music, or (as you so aptly pointed out) the recording.

My favorite way of explaining the concept of intellectual property to the illiterate tribesmen I encounter daily is "Okay, imagine that all the sheet music in the world burned up in a huge bonfire, and then imagine that they threw on all the CDs. You can still hum the music, right? The music still exists, right? Well, that thing you can't touch, or buy, or break...that is what we own."

That should cause your head to melt some.