Social Media Companies

The Legal Beat: Social Media Companies License Music

What if you post a video on Facebook that you created and you want to include music from a famous recording artist’s album? Can you do it legally?

Social media companies such as Facebook are now licensing music from music labels and publishers. This can be a new source of income for music rights holders. In addition, people can now include certain music on their social media pages.

In the past, Facebook would handle user-uploaded music under the “safe harbor” provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). The DMCA requires that users of music respond promptly to takedown requests from music rights holders, such as labels and publishers.   

According to an article in an April 27 article in Billboard magazine:

“But since December 2017, when it reached a deal with Universal Music Group (UMG) for both recordings and publishing, the company has been licensing rights that allow users to include music in personal videos and special features on it platform and its Instagram, WhatsApp, Messenger and Oculus VR services. In April 2018 Facebook started supporting licensed music on its platforms, with new in-app functions soon following.”

The Billboard article used as an example Shiggy (a social media comic) posting a short video of himself dancing to “In My Feelings” by Drake. It went viral and helped the song reach the top of Billboard’s Hot 100 chart. This showed the potential for social media as a revenue source for music rights holders.

In the past year or so, Facebook has expanded the music features it offers. In April of 2018 Facebook launched Facebook Music tools on all of its online properties. In addition to including music in videos, and messages on Facebook and Instagram, it has introduced music stickers and filters for a number of recording artists. Facebook has also “introduced products like Tiktok competitor Lip Sync Live and Songs on Profile, which “pins” a track to the top of a profile page. In February, Eminem developed the 21-minute film Marshall From Detroit, a personalized tour of his hometown, for Oculus. And Facebook has integrated Spotify and Apple Music into its platforms as partners, not competitors.” (Billboard April 27 article).

So what does this all mean for those of us who want to share music on their Facebook page?   Now you can share it legally if you use the songs licensed by Facebook. Due to demand from users, Facebook created the Facebook Sound Collection, which provides access to use thousands of songs and sound effects on your Facebook pages. The songs are legal to use in videos people create on Facebook and Instagram.

Until recently, the labels and publishers viewed social media companies as competition. They have now started to work together to their mutual benefit. The music industry now views social media licensing as a substantial and growing source of income. User-generated content now represents 1.2 billion dollars of the global recorded music business. It appears this will only grow over the next few years.

GLENN LITWAK is a veteran entertainment attorney based in Santa Monica, CA. He has represented platinum-selling recording artists, Grammy-winning music producers, hit songwriters, management and production companies, music publishers and independent record labels.  Glenn is also a frequent speaker at music industry conferences around the country, such as South by Southwest and the Billboard Music in Film and TV Conference.  Email Litwak at [email protected] or visit glennlitwak.com.

This article is a very brief overview of the subject matter and does not constitute legal advice.