by Dan O'Day

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"But the client insists we use that song in the commercial!"

"But the sales department insists...."

"But our program director said someone said it’s okay...."


Why I Wrote This Book

Not a week goes by without my receiving an urgent e-mail from someone at a radio station or production company, asking me to "settle an argument" regarding copyright laws.

Typically, the client (or the sales department) is insisting on using copyrighted music in a commercial. The producer thinks it's illegal, but everyone else keeps insisting "it's okay; everyone does it."

Finally I decided to create a single, easy-to-read e-book (PDF format) that answers all the questions you might have regarding copyright law as it affects the day-to-day operation of your broadcast station or production company.

Note: I realize you don't have time to read a dense, legalistic textbook. Although it answers all the copyright-related questions that come up in your radio station every day, the entire e-book numbers just 30 pages. No fluff, no filler. Just the information you need, at your fingertips whenever you need it.

But if you judge a book by the number of its pages rather than by the value of its information, please do not order this!

I began by interviewing a nationally known expert on copyright law -- an attorney whose work has been cited repeatedly in arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court.

After a brief review of what a "copyright" actually is, our expert addressed every conceivable permutation of copyright law questions -- every issue that you've wondered about in the past or might face in the future.

For instance....


•  Air a commercial that uses a copyrighted song
   and/or performance?

•  Air a commercial that features a copyrighted song
   with your own original performance?

•   Air a commercial that uses a copyrighted song that
    you have rewritten to suit the advertiser?

•  Air a commercial that uses only an instrumental
   version of a copyrighted song?

•  Air a commercial for a musical performer’s local
   concert, using recorded examples of his/her music?

   Hint: This is not covered by your BMI or ASCAP fees! There is a way to do this legally, but very few stations know how.

•  Air a TV commercial for your radio station, featuring
   some of the music your station plays?

•  Record a TV program’s theme music and play it on
   your airwaves?

•  Air a commercial for a nightclub that includes copyrighted    music representing the types of music the club plays?
   (Even if the club itself pays for a license fee to play the
   music in the club?)

•  Take music that has been licensed by a national
   advertiser for a national campaign and use it to create
   a recorded commercial for a local affiliate or franchisee
   of that national advertiser?

•  Present a dramatic, on-air reading of a copyrighted

•  Use "drop-ins" or "wild tracks" recorded from TV

•  Use "drop-ins" or "wild tracks" recorded from movies?

•  Broadcast something you’ve recorded from another
   TV or radio station (e.g., news report, news conference,
   portion of an interview, etc.)?

•  Broadcast a sporting event highlight recorded from
   another broadcast station?

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•  "Fair Use"?

•  "The Seven-Second Rule"?

    Hint:  There's no such thing, and there never was! This Guide gives you all the details!

•  "Using just a few bars....?"

•  Non-commercial stations?

    Hint: The rules are identical for commercial and non-commercial stations.

•  Non-profit advertisers?

    Hint: The same rules apply.

•  The fees you pay to BMI and ASCAP? (No, they
   do not allow you to use copyrighted music in recorded
   commercials. This is explained fully and understandably.)

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•  Even when using material that’s in the public domain?

•  The two kinds of rights you need to have acquired
   before airing a copyrighted piece?

•  If you’re a radio station that airs an "illegal" commercial...
   even if the client told you it’s okay to do so?

•  If you’re a radio station that airs an "illegal" commercial
   that was produced by another radio station?

•  If you’re a radio station that airs an "illegal" commercial
   that was produced by an ad agency or production

•  Even if "all the other stations in town do it!"

•  For using a copyrighted work as the basis for what
   common is known as a "song parody"? If it fits the
   legal definition of "parody," then it’s allowed. But
   simply taking a song and writing funny new lyrics to it
   (for example, to tie into a topical event) usually is not

     (Does your morning show do lots of parodies? If so, are they legal? If they’re illegal and you distribute them on CDs — even when the proceeds go to charity — do you have any idea how many hundreds of thousands of dollars that can cost you if you’re caught?)

•  If you air an "illegal" commercial that was produced by
   another radio station? (For example, when the advertiser
   has that station give you a copy to air on your station.)

•  If you’re a radio station that airs an "illegal" commercial
   that was produced by the client?

Big Hint:  "We didn’t know" is not a legal defense against copyright infringement!

Neither is, "But we were just following the client’s instructions!"

That’s because copyright law invokes what is known as "Strict Liability" — which this e-book will explain to you fully.

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You Have The Right To Remain Ignorant.

I have priced this book so cheaply that any radio station can afford it. But if you'd rather continue to risk your station's license on hearsay and rumor, you're entitled to make that choice.

But remember, "I didn't know" or "Everyone else does it" or "Somebody told me it was okay" is not a viable defense in a court of law.

Q:  If your radio station, TV station, ad agency, production company and/or client is involved in the creation, production or airing of a production that violates copyright law, who is liable?

A:  All of you! (And if you’ve got a radio station that is part of a larger parent company, the parent company can be sued, too.

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2-Page "Copyright Infringement" Memo
for Your Staff

I've distilled the highlights into two pages, formatted for you to reproduce and post in your studio, sales office, etc.

But....How can you convince the client that what they're asking is illegal? Good question! That's why I created....



The Ultimate, Non-Lawyer’s Guide To Copyright Infringement In Radio Commercials...And How To Avoid It also includes three pages designed especially to share with your clients:


A Special Report for Our Valued Clients

You'll be able to explain to your clients in plain English what is legal...and what isn't. I'll even tell you how to respond when the client says, "If you don't do this, I'll find another station that will!"

 Download your copy now for just $17 

The Ultimate, Non-Lawyer’s Guide To Copyright Infringement In Radio Commercials...And How To Avoid It is a 30-page e-book (PDF format), available for immediate download.

Your book can be read (and printed) from any computer that has Acrobat Reader (Version 4.0 or higher).

A single copyright infringement can bankrupt your company. Do you really want to continue to take that chance?

 Download your copy now for just $17 

THE ULTIMATE, NON-LAWYER'S GUIDE TO COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT IN RADIO COMMERCIALS...And How To Avoid It is my new best friend! Anyone who doesn't spend the few bucks to get it is a fool and more importantly AT RISK! The letter for us to give our clients is great, and we posted the 2-page, in-house summary on each production room door as well!

— Rich Stevens, KHTE


— Keith Kaufman, Clear Channel Radio Nashville

Your timing couldn't have been better in making the Copyright Infringement handbook available.

The day after I printed it out, two sales folks handed in ad requests using various songs from Shania Twain to Sly and The Family Stone.

When it was pointed out that we can't do that, one of them said, "Oh. I knew it was illegal but I wasn't sure what this company's policy is." The other just said, "Oh" and wandered off.

The handbook sits prominently on my desk with all the newsletters you send out, nicely separated into different binders for easy reference.

— Jim Scott, WIXX

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We ordered your ULTIMATE, NON-LAWYER'S GUIDE TO COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT IN RADIO COMMERCIALS...And How To Avoid It and are thrilled with it. So much research! So many answers! Thanks for going to the trouble; our industry needs more guidebooks like this!

— Kathy Edwards, Corus Radio Calgary

The handouts at the end of your ULTIMATE, NON-LAWYER'S GUIDE TO COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT IN RADIO COMMERCIALS...And How To Avoid It really came in handy for me!

A piece of copy was handed in with the notation at the bottom of the music the client wanted. It's a song by a little known band that used to be around in the mid '90s but has since broken up.

Needless to say, we ended up using something from our production library that worked just as well, but I don't think that salesperson will turn in another piece of copy like this!

— Shelby T, K95.5 FM

Just wanted to thank you for making available THE ULTIMATE, NON-LAWYER'S GUIDE TO COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT IN RADIO COMMERCIALS...And How To Avoid It.

It is invaluable! Countless theories exist about these copyright issues, and your guide shows most of them are dead wrong (not to mention dangerous to the station's license!). So glad I ordered it; thanks again!

— George Wolf, WHOK

I purchased THE ULTIMATE, NON-LAWYER'S GUIDE TO COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT IN RADIO COMMERCIALS...And How To Avoid It and pull it out whenever one of our account reps says, 'But why can't my client play (Insert Popular Song Title Here) in his commercial?' It's been great!

— Brian Hart, Triangle Sports Talk 1090 AM

 Download your copy now for just $17 

This book has not only been a great help to me in dealing with sales people, but it has been an excellent tool for them in dealing with clients. Now instead of just being told "No!" the client can be given an easy to understand explanation of why we can't accommodate their request.

— Steven Lang, WNGC/WGAU

While this book has been very useful in helping me clarify some of the stickier copyright wickets in my own mind, it's been even more useful as expert documentation to convince the sales department that copyright laws need to be observed. What they won't believe from the production department's mouth, they will believe in printed form. When all else fails, it's useful to flail them about the head and shoulders with!

— Pat Greiner, KTWO

Sometimes clients don't believe us when we tell them they can't use a certain song in their spots because of copyright issues. Now we have proof. It cleared up a lot of areas I wasn't certain of myself. This book is a big help!

— Scott MacDermott, 104.9 JRfm/103.7 BOB-FM

The most effective way I've found for finally getting sales people to understand that using any portion of a copyrighted work, like a song, is not legal. Now when they have questions or outrageous misconceptions I just hand them this guide and all is well.

— John Callahan, WMLP/WVLY

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To whom it may concern:

In the small market in which we operate a TV station, some members of our advertising community feel immune to the laws of copyright, particularly when it comes to using music. We are also a market that has many casinos; thus songs that have a gambling theme are prone to be used.

When I first came to town, I rejected ads containing lyrics or music from recognized artists. When I called the radio station to warn them of copyright violation, they would respond as follows:

  1. We paid our BMI/ASCAP dues, so we are protected.
  2. We only use 5 seconds of music, and that's allowable.
  3. The client said it was OK for us to use that music.
  4. The client demanded it be used or they would cancel their advertising.
  5. My favorite: "We're such a small market we'll never get caught, and besides if we do, we'll just say we didn't know!"
Then one day Dan O'Day came to town and told a bunch of broadcasters the do's and don'ts of programming, commercials, and copyright.

Did it work? NOPE! Some broadcasters kept on keeping on.

So when I heard about Dan's new book, I jumped on the opportunity to be the best and the brightest and made it my personal mission to share my (Dan's) knowledge about broadcast copyright with our CLIENTS...and gave fair warning to the broadcast community that our station would assume the watchdog role of reporting copyright violations.

It's called;


Now you have the background for why I bought Dan's brilliant e-book.

It is worth its weight in gold. If you do not have this information at your fingertips, get it!

— Art Taft, KRTV

 Download your copy now for just $17 

This book settles all arguments regarding copyright infringement. Any and all myths (such as "I can use so many seconds of a song"...."I can use so many notes...."I can use so many bars...."my club already has ASCAP/BMI licensing") are laid to rest. I don't know how I lived without it.

— Uncle Harley, Clear Channel-Panama City

We were so happy to have the information in print to give to our sales staff. They seem to have the hardest time comprehending copyright laws. We so much appreciate your hard work in putting this together. It has helped us tremendously!

— Ginger Johnson, WRD Entertainment, Inc.

It was an old argument even back in 1986 when I started in radio: Do your ASCAP and BMI fees cover using copyrighted music in commercials? Sales and Production would say "Yes," Programming would say "No."

Well, 20 years later I still have to answer that question.

Thanks to THE ULTIMATE, NON-LAWYER'S GUIDE TO COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT IN RADIO COMMERCIALS...And How To Avoid It, I can show clients as well as the sales staff not only WHY we can't do it, but also the possible ramifications. In fact. I gave every sales person a copy of the summary and posted it in every production studio. Now there's no more argument.

— Craig Allen, Citadel Broadcasting/Saginaw

Several times a year we have clients ask us to put a specific song under their spot. We hand this book to the sales department, tell them we can't, and the argument ends."

— Mike Lewis, KRDO

I highly recommend your copyright infringement e-book. We were getting questions all the time which I couldn't answer before. Now our account managers are better able to tackle the tough questions presented by their clients who want to use copyrighted material in their ads.

Production people and sales people often disagree on many things, but never on Dan O'Day's knowledge and credibility. Plus, at less than 15 bucks, it's practically a steal!

— Chris Williams, Journal Broadcast Group

This book was very well done! It answered pretty much all of the "myth-or-fact" questions my staff and I have every had about commercial copyright laws!"

— Travis McGinnis, Aim Studios Productions

I'm the creative services director for a group of three east-central Wisconsin radio stations. I'm ultimately responsible for the content of our locally produced advertising, continually ordered by around 15 sales reps.

Before purchasing your publication THE ULTIMATE, NON-LAWYER'S GUIDE TO COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT IN RADIO COMMERCIALS...And How To Avoid It, requests for unlicensed music were frequent, I was only partially educated on this issue, and there was no standard to which I could refer in explaining the clear application of copyright laws to local commercial production.

After reading the guide, I posted your two-page excerpt offering the "condensed version" of essential principles ("For All Employees...") prominently next to the trays where orders and copy requests are submitted to me. Now, improper requests are easily resolved. Any responsible management would profit by making this modestly-priced publication "essential reading" for their creative director.

— Kevin Zimmermann, Midwest Communications

I work for a non-profit organization. We don't produce commercials per se, but questions about using other people's music, audio or video clips seem to come up all the time. I may not be a "target reader" of the book; nonetheless it provided us with a wealth of good information and advice and was well worth the cheap price. Thanks, Dan!

— Rich Roszel, Crown Financial Ministries

I'm the faculty advisor of a college radio station. Like most advisors, I deal with students who want to use copyrighted songs or audio clips from movies to "spice up" promos and PSA's and other production work. With so many commercial stations in our area doing exactly what I tell students they can't do, I've found myself being more of a policeman than an advisor.

THE ULTIMATE, NON-LAWYER'S GUIDE TO COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT IN RADIO COMMERCIALS...And How To Avoid It is the perfect solution. It's an easy read (not like some textbooks) and gets the point across clearly and concisely. It should be required reading for all student broadcasters.

— Kevin Ankeny, WGFR

Buy it.... Read it....Save your butt!

The price is right. Certainly worth the $'s. Quick reference. Should be required reading for all production and creative directors.

— Mike Carta, Super Sweepers

In most cases, using your guide is as simple as me just holding it up in front of the AE, pointing to it and saying. "If you'd like to read through this, you're more than welcome to. But, trust me, you can't legally use that music in your spot." Voila! End of another episode of wasted time.

— Scott Carty, KPLZ/KVI/KOMO




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