A corporation would like to videotape their employees lip syncing to a popular song for internal purposes. However, they'd like to post the video to their YouTube channel. Must they obtain permission to use the song or does it fall under "fair use" like someone videotaping their family or friends lip syncing to a song?
State/Country relating to question: Illinois
The truth is that lip-syncing a song and posting it on YouTube is probably not fair use, and probably is copyright infringement. The reason people get away with it is that most music companies are not suing over this anymore. YouTube automatically recognizes the song, adds links about where to buy it, and the home-made video ends up serving like an advertisement for the song. Thus no one sues, and hopefully everyone ends up making money and having fun.
A company that does this would likely also not be sued, for the same reasons. But your lawyers might not want to take this (small but unnecessary) risk.
Hope that helps. Good luck.
What if they wrote parody lyrics and produced an original track of an existing song? Not using the artists recording.
What if they wrote parody lyrics and create a music track or even used a karoke track?
True parodies -- designed to make fun of the original song, not merely to be funny -- are usually protected as "fair use" and hence are allowed. You could even use some of the original sounds from the original song.
Just make sure that you are doing a parody (making fun of the song) and not just being funny and using the song to be funny. Copyright law excuses the first, but not the second.
Professor of Law at Top-Tier Law School, specializing in patent & copyright
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