What Is Ephemeral Use, and How Does It Affect Me?

Programs such as sporting events or news broadcasts may be able to use your music without a sync license - here's why.

Every so often, situations arise where music is used in a broadcast without prior permission, and without the payment of a sync fee.

Under United States copyright law, the copyright owner has the exclusive right to exploit their own material. However, there is an exception known as "Ephemeral Recordings." The word ephemeral means temporary. Copyright law allows for temporary use of copyrighted material, which means sometimes broadcasters can legally use your music without paying a sync fee.

Some examples of this would be during a live sporting event or newscast where it would be nearly impossible for that broadcaster to get a clearance for the music while that broadcast is happening in real-time. For example, if a song is played over the loudspeaker at a stadium where a live broadcast is occurring, the broadcaster is not legally obligated to obtain a license for that song.

Sometimes, however, music is used during a recorded broadcast and can also be considered an ephemeral use. The rule can apply if the broadcaster makes only one copy of the work, doesn’t distribute it to any other outside entities, and destroys the copy within six months. The same can apply to live radio broadcasts.

Ephemeral use is specific to broadcasters and does not apply to other situations such as individual producers, production houses, promos, and commercials. If you would like more detailed information, please check out this article.

If you are ever concerned about a use of your music, and are not sure if it falls under ephemeral use or not, please feel free to get in contact with our team by using our support form. We are more than happy to investigate.


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