Category Archives: For Educators

How To Use Music Legally In Your Work

When do I need a license to use music in my work?
You need to acquire a license when you want to take music that you have not personally created and use it as background music soundtrack in your production.  Acquiring a license gives you the legal right to include someone else’s copyrighted work as a part of your own work.

What is a Copyright?
Copyright is a federal law that protects creators by giving them exclusive rights to their works for a period of time.  Once a work is under copyright, it is considered copyright infringement (illegal) to use the work without the permission of the copyright owner.

How does copyright affect my decision to use music?
Music that has been recorded and issued on CD is protected by 2 copyrights.  To use a recording of a musical composition in your work, you need to get permission from both copyright holders.

The first permission you need is from the music’s publisher.  The music publisher holds the copyright for the actual written music – the melody, the lyrics, the accompaniment, the actual music as it would appear in sheet music.  This copyright is shown by using the familiar © symbol.

The second permission is for the recording itself.  To get this, you would approach the record company that released the recording.  The record company holds the copyright for the actual performance of the song captured and mastered on tape and released on CD.  The symbol for this copyright is the letter (P) inside a circle. (look on the back of your own Cds, you will see these symbols in use)

The fact that music is protected by copyright doesn’t mean you cannot use it, it simply means you have to seek permission to use it.  To receive that permission you will typically have to pay a licensing fee.

What licenses do I need?
Here are the licenses you need for the right to use music in your media project:

Synchronization License – This license is issued by the music publisher.  The Synchronization License (often abbreviated as “sync” license) gives you the right to “synchronize” the copyrighted music with your images and dialogue.

Note: Having a sync license means you have permission from the publisher to use the music but it doesn’t give you the right to use a specific recording of the composition.  For that, you need the following…

Master Use License – This license is issued directly from the record company. Fees can range from several hundred dollars to millions of dollars depending on the popularity of the music.

Once you have paid the music publisher for a Sync License and the record company for a Master Use license, you have the legal right to use the music in your production within the terms of the license you negotiated.

This article is about music that is under copyright and NOT in the public domain.  In the United States, music written before 1933 is in the public domain and can be used without having to acquire a synchronization license.  However, you will still need a master use license if you use a recording of a piece in the public domain.  Music written after 1933 is still under copyright according to US law.  Public Domain is defined and interpreted differently in Canada, Europe, and the UK. Here is an article with more detail about using public domain music.

How do I find out who owns the song rights?
If you don’t know the publisher of the song you want to license, you should contact the major Performance Rights Organizations like BMI, ASCAP, and SESAC.  These groups have large databases of composer and associated publisher song titles.  Another place to try is The Harry Fox Agency. This company mainly grants mechanical rights (for recording and existing song), but their database is also huge.

Music Clearance
As you can see from the process described above, licensing music can be a time-intensive, form-laden, and expensive process.  There are companies that just specialize in finding and processing the paperwork to get you the rights to a song. If you enter the term “Music Clearance” in a search engine, many music clearance companies will appear.  If you have a music supervisor on your project, he or she will also be experienced in music clearance.

A Licensing Alternative – Production Music
Using Production Music (also referred to as Stock Music), is the easiest way to quickly license music to use legally in your work. Production Music fills a niche for producers who don’t have a million dollar music budget and can’t afford to license a major hit song.  Production Music gives the smaller, independent producer the ability to use music soundtracks in his or her production.

Is Production Music under copyright?
Production music is protected by both the (C) and (P) copyrights.  When you buy a track from a production music library, you’ll receive a license agreement which grants you both synchronization and master use rights. It’s simple and easy to do.  For instance, at the UniqueTracks Stock Music site, your license and recorded master track can be downloaded right to your computer upon purchase.

Stock Production Music is not copyright-free as some have termed it.  It is fully protected by copyright law. With production music, you get the ease of licensing.  You don’t have to contact several sources to seek sync and master use licenses.  These licenses come bundled together and the rights granted are very wide.  A typical stock music license grants you permission to use the music in TV broadcasts, TV & Radio advertising, Internet streaming (great for YouTube videos) music-on-hold, apps & video games, in-store broadcast, and as corporate trade show products and giveaways.  Here is an example of a typical stock music license agreement.

Can I license a famous song from a production music library?
There are no production music pop hits.  You won’t find an Eminem track in a royalty free production music library.  To use an Eminem cut you would have to negotiate a license with Interscope Records.  That’s not to say you can’t find Hip Hop tracks in production music libraries but you won’t find current or past pop hits.

Unlike a pop song, production music is composed to be used specifically as background music. It is usually instrumental, with no vocals or lyrics, and is similar to a film soundtrack.

The simplicity of licensing makes it a perfect choice for corporate videos, Flash animations, Game apps, Music-On-Hold, PowerPoint presentations, independent film, multimedia applications, – virtually anywhere where music is helpful but where the project budget doesn’t include hundreds of thousands of dollars to license expensive songs.

Premium Stock Music for Film, TV, Advertising and Interactive. Editor-selected, Easy Search, Fast Results  UniqueTracks has a vast library of music loops and grooves plus a large selection of classical production music available for licensing into your production.

Royalty Free Music, Sound Effects, and Animated Video Backgrounds

Dispelling Confusion About Classrooms and Copyright

33130_Hobbs_Copyright_72ppiRGB_150pixwIncorporating media into classroom presentations has become much simpler today. However, for educators, the vast array of materials online often creates confusion regarding the legality of its usage.

Media literacy expert Renee Hobbs’ great new book Copyright Clarity – How Fair Use Supports Digital Learning provides a complete and concise look at what is, and what is not, acceptable for classroom use.

The book explores:

  • What types of usage are permissible for classroom use
  • How to create class projects that follow copyright laws
  • Fair Use of digital materials such as images, music, movies, and Internet elements found on sites such as Google and YouTube
  • The latest trends in intellectual property law and copyright practices

“This long-awaited book relieves educators’ anxieties about the legality of using copyrighted materials during instruction and presentations. In addition to answering questions about fair use practice in an easy-to-understand manner, Hobbs offers examples of how technology supports essential literacy and communication skills in 21st-century classrooms.”
—Diane Lapp, Distinguished Professor of Education
San Diego State University

The book expresses legal concepts in a easily understandable fashion, allowing educators to confidently incorporate captivating media tools into their lessons and presentations without concern about infringing on copyright laws.

If you’re an educator, check out Copyright Clarity. It will settle any confusing issues you’ve experienced where you’ve not been sure if your usage of a given media was within the boundaries of copyright law.

How to best use stock media in your production

UT0403_product-01Stock media companies provide ready-made media content that can be legally added to your work in a matter of minutes.

What is Stock Media? – Stock Media includes photographs, illustrations, video footage, music recordings, sound effects, Flash animations, website templates, PowerPoint backgrounds, and clipart.

Many stock music companies refer to themselves as libraries because, like a library, they carry a broad array of materials that tries to satisfy a wide range of tastes and needs.

Licensed Not Sold – With stock media, what you are really buying is a license that gives you permission to use the material you’re interested in.

Once you have a license you don’t, in fact, own the material. It is still owned by the stock media company. They remain the copyright holders. Your license lets you legally use the material in your production.  There are two main types of stock licenses.

  1. Rights Managed – The price of a Rights Managed license depends on how you wish to use the media you’re interested in.  For instance, is it going to be used in a national advertising campaign or is it for your company brochure?  Is it being considered for a PowerPoint presentation or is it going to be used in a motion picture?  Each usage has a different price.A Rights Managed license also takes into consideration how long you will use the media. Periods usually range from 3 months to several years.  If you are going to include the material in a product, your license will be based on how many pieces you plan to manufacture.  With a right managed license, at the end of the license period, you no longer have permission to use the media. Your relationship with the company ends (unless you extend your license).
  2. Royalty Free – Royalty free means you are not charged a fee for each separate commercial use of the media. You can use the material as often as you’d like for as long as you’d like. You pay an initial fee for the license and are then free and clear of any further licensing restraints. Licensing is fast and easy, with one price you acquire synchronization rights to use the music as background music in your production.

A Rights Managed license is more expensive Why? Usually, the production values for Rights Managed media is higher.  The media has more of a professional sheen than royalty free media.  Also, in some cases, for instance, a Rights Managed photo, the stock company will remove the photo from circulation for the period of your license.  No one else can use it.

This is a huge advantage for Rights Managed licenses. It protects against simultaneous use – so your competitor won’t be using the same photo as you to launch their ad campaign. When you use royalty free content, there is no such protection. The same photo or music track may be being used by hundreds of companies at the same time.

The question to ask is…is this important to me? Do I care if another company is using this image or this particular web template? If you do, then you will want to pursue a Rights Managed solution. If on the other hand, it really doesn’t matter to you, then you’ll want to take a serious look at royalty free media because it is so much cheaper.

Stock by any other name – Rights Managed recordings are also known as “needle-drops” in the stock music world. This name came from the days of actually lowering a phonograph needle onto a record to place the music into a production. With compact discs in the 1980s, it started to be called a “laser-drop”.   Both terms are confusing.  I find Rights Managed to be a much better description.

Royalty free is sometimes called “buy out”. I’ve also seen it referred to as “copyright-free” but this is really an error. The material is in fact fully copyrighted by the stock media company.

UniqueTracks is a stock music company that offers Rights Managed licensing.  This means each license is written for your exact usage.  We began licensing stock music in 1998.  For more information about our recordings and music licensing packages, please visit us at

New Stock Music from Argentina & the Andes Mountains

Andes Music stock music collectionUniqueTracks has just commissioned a new stock music collection from Argentinian composer Leopoldo Ciancaglini. This world music flavored collection features ancient wooden flutes, exotic percussion instruments, and some really brilliant acoustic guitar playing.

The collection is inspired by the music of the original inhabitants of what is now Argentina. Usually one thinks of the Tango as the sound of Argentina but here the music is more native and earthy – similar to that made by the indigenous people of the Andes Mountains.

This music has been specially designed to function as background music soundtrack in your video or film production.

This set of inspiring stock music is a truly original and dramatic collection of soundtracks that will give you a wide range of exotic colors and moods to choose from. When used as background music, the unique qualities of these tracks will highlight the creative elements of your production.  There are several different arrangements of each theme.

Highlight tracks include:

Teaching Media Production to Middle School students

“For two years, I taught a middle school class called Media Production. This course lasted for nine weeks and was taught four times a year to both 8th graders and 6th graders. I designed the course and included topics in which I was personally interested. I’ve had lots of requests for information about teaching Media Production and wanted to make the information available to help other teachers.”  Stephanie Drotos

Stephanie Drotos’ Teaching Media Production is a very valuable website for educators interested in creating a media production curriculum. This site lays out in clear detail, everything you need to teach a nine-week middle school media production course.

The site was created by a middle teacher for other middle school teachers interested in creating (or expanding) media production courses concentrating on teaching stop-motion animation, desktop publishing, video production.

The site includes course outlines, day-to-day lesson plans, sample class handouts and teacher resources.  If you are an educator teaching media production, I think you’ll be well rewarded looking at Stephanie’s course ideas.

Media Production Tools – Sound Effects, Animated Video Backgrounds, Royalty Free Music – The online student film festival is an online filmmaking resource for film students and aspiring filmmakers from around the world.

The site features:

  • internet broadcasting of your film (upload it to their site) – viewers of your film can write a review, you can post contact information for those interested in your work.
  • forum discussions – discuss films on the site, introduce yourself to the community, discuss filmmaking tips and techniques, ask questions about screenwriting, pre-production and post-production, ask questions about which film school to attend at the unversity level
  • Filmmaking Articles – Online Avid Tutorials, Tools for writers, HD product reviews

Active topics on the forum right now include, requests for iMovie help, Making a movie from a book and a vigorous discussion of NY vs LA, which discusses which media center is best for a young filmmaker to begin their career in. There is also a discussion of universities which have exemplary film schools, like New York University’s Tisch School for the Arts.

The main element and greatest strength of the site is its abiltiy to broadcast films over the internet and enable peer discussion of each film. now has a database of over 800 films which is searchable by genre, popularity on the site, film title, and by film school. There is also this cool randomizer feature which will bring you to any film in the database. All the reviews and comments I saw where mature and honest attempts to be helpful. Everyone is in the same boat and the community really does try to share knowledge and creative ideas. The forum section is also very strong. There is a good deal of filmmaking information shared in the forum questions.

If you are considering a career as a filmmaker or are an educator with a media-production curriculum, I think that will become an excellent resource for you.

George Lucas Foundation & Edutopia

George Lucas is best known as a filmmaker and as the creator of the Star Wars and Indiana Jones blockbuster movie franchises. You may not know that his George Lucas Educational Foundation actively promotes innovative educational programs throughout the United States.

Edutopia – Information and Inspiration for Innovative Teaching in K-12 Schools

The foundation’s website – Edutopia – publishes stories of innovative teaching and learning through a variety of media — a magazine, an e-newsletter, CD-ROMs, DVDs, books, and the Edutopia Web site. Here, you’ll find detailed articles, in-depth case studies, research summaries, instructional modules, short documentary segments, expert interviews, and links to hundreds of relevant resources. You’ll also be able to participate as a member of an online community of people actively working to reinvent schools for the twenty-first century.

Besides the website, Edutopia is also a magazine which educators can subscribe to for free. The magazine can be read online or it can be delivered to your address. Edutopia supports the free circulation of its content, all articles on the site can be easily downloaded as pdf files
Subscribe to Edutopia magazine

There’s a great amount of information on the site but I was most impressed with the packaged and downloadable course materials offered….

Free Instructional Modules created by professors of education and professional-development specialists may be used as extension units in existing courses, or can be used independently in workshops and meetings. All modules include articles, video footage, PowerPoint presentations, discussion questions, and class activities.

some sample articles from the site…
Big Ideas for Better Schools
Students Find Their Voices through Multimedia
Martin Scorsese: Teaching Visual Literacy
Film School – The silver screen inspires young minds to think big.

Edutopia is a forward looking educational website that embraces film, video and multimedia production as important elements in the learning process.

A listing of student film festivals

From the Director in the Classroom Film Festival Resource.

Up-to-date and detailed, this site has an ever growing list of student film festivals. The festivals are sorted by region, with contact info, guidelines and links to each festival page. A great resource for high school and college-age filmmakers, there are even some listings for middle school students.

The list is presented by The Director in the Classroom…

Director in the Classroom examines how filmmaking engages learners. The program gives students the tools, skills and confidence to take creative control of their research and presentation projects and to engage learning using video production.

Videography for Educators

Apple Computer and Apple Learning Interchange has a very informative, course-like, web showcase entitled Videography for Educators. This exhibit features tips and techniques to assist in the creation of quality video products. The concepts, skills and examples are presented in a manner relevant to classroom teachers. The showcase assumes that you are somewhat familiar with digital editing software ie. iMovie or Final Cut.

Though this showcase is aimed primarily at teachers, it makes a great “Intro to Videography” for anyone. The showcase starts with the basics and moves through the video creation process.

Topics include:
Video Style
Production Decisions
Pre-Production Scouting
Equipment Setup
Effective Lighting
Effective Audio
Capturing the Video
The Art of Editing
And more

The best way to find stock music

Finding stock music in the jungleToo often choosing the right track from a stock music library is like hacking your way through an overgrown jungle with no map and no sense of direction. It’s a time-intensive, hit-or-miss process that requires listening to multitudes of the wrong selections.

After a while your brain becomes numb and everything blends together and sounds the same. To further complicate things, you’re often searching for soundtrack right at the project deadline so there is pressure to find tracks fast.

The fastest way to find the right background music for your work is to first identify the underlying feeling – the emotional thrust – of your production. Many project creators only think about what STYLE of music they want (i.e. Rock, Techno). A better way to proceed is to look for background music based on the emotional character of your work. When you know your project’s emotional themes, you will cut an incredible amount of time from your search.


This is what film composers do. After meeting with the director to discuss the film’s meaning and concept, the composer immerses him/herself into the film and begins to investigate its emotional essence.You can do the same thing. Here is a simple exercise to try with your own work.

  1. See yourself in each scene as an eyewitness to what is happening
  2. Become emotionally open to the events that occur.
  3. Freewrite your reactions. (Freewriting is writing that’s done quickly without any self-editing – you just want to get your ideas on paper in a way that you’ll remember)
  4. After the production is over, take your freewriting and look for 1-5 keyword phrases that best describe the emotion(s) of what you’ve experienced. This technique will work just as well for a 15 second Flash animation as an hour-length video documentary. In each case, you want to understand the emotion at the heart of your project so you can choose music that elevates your viewer’s experience.

Here’s an example of the process…

Let’s say you’re giving a 2 hour talk on “Better Time Management” and you want some background music to use in your PowerPoint at the beginning, end, and during the break.

You do the exercise above and here is a sample of your freewriting…


…better time management = organization,

productivity, structure…getting things done

a sense of being in control,- order – stress-free

living, flow, mind like water…


To derive your emotional keywords from this, look at the benefits of features like productivity and organization.

Benefit of productivity – accomplishment

Getting things done – satisfaction, freedom, liberation

Benefit of Organization/Order – peace, harmony, well-being

Now begin searching the stock music libraries listening for background music that highlights feelings of satisfaction, freedom, that gives a sense of peace, harmony, accomplishment. Remember, you’re still not locked into any specific musical style, you’re searching for music that will adequately speak to the emotional content of your work.

On the UniqueTracks Production Music Library website, we have sorted every track in our library by its corresponding emotional keywords. If you need a track to underscore the feeling of “satisfaction” or “peace”, all you have to do is click a link and you’ll be presented with a listing of all the tracks in our music library that correspond to those feelings.

Once you know the feeling you are looking for, finding the right background music track becomes much easier because, through the process of drilling down to the emotional core of your work, you have already filtered out most of the music choices that don’t apply. You have narrowed your search, created a map, and a way to avoid getting lost in the production music jungle.