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YouTube star Michelle Phan has been slapped with a copyright-infringement lawsuit over her use of background music in her makeup tutorials.
The do-it-yourself online makeup sensation is accused of rising to commercial success by illegally using copyrighted music by artists like Deadmau5 and Kaskade in her videos. While Phan insists she didn't infringe on any copyrights, business owners may be wondering: Isn't there a way for entrepreneurs like Phan to use music without being sued?
Learn from Phan's copyright suit with these three business lessons:
In case you're not familiar with Michelle Phan, here's one of her clips from YouTube:
Like Phan, your business isn't likely to be using music directly in order to sell your goods or services. It may just exist pleasantly in the background of your office's waiting room or restaurant dining area. But be warned, using background music like this without a performance license can get your business sued.
Unlike consumers listening to music, if a business chooses to play copyrighted music without permission, it may be infringing on the artist and record label's copyrights. Organizations like BMI will sell music performance licenses to certain bars, restaurants, and clubs for a fee, allowing them to play recorded music, TV, and radio without infringing on copyrights. Without this license, your business could be vulnerable to lawsuits by artists and their respective record labels, simply for playing the radio in the background of your small business.
But what about fair use? Employers may be able to get away with using music -- and perhaps so can Phan -- if a court affirms that the use of copyrighted music was fair use.
Courts tend to look at these four factors when determining fair use of copyrighted material:
We aren't sure if Phan has counsel, but your business should. Consult with a copyright attorney if you have any doubts about whether your next business move could end in a copyright suit.
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.
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