Is the following scenario legal for a professional editor?

  • A family wants to make a birthday video for their son for completely non commercial use.
  • In the video they would like a particular copyrighted song to be played in the background.
  • They hire an editor to edit this video using the song without licensing it.

2 Answers 2


I am not a lawyer and it may depend on where you are located, but generally speaking, even if you weren't being paid, this is technically a violation of copyright that you could be sued over. It is highly unlikely that anyone would come after you for it if they only use it privately, but if it was, say, published to youtube, then there would be more chance of issues coming up and you would still be the person who sold them the video. You would probably be liable under most jurisdictions copyright laws as this is a pretty major situation that copyright is specifically designed to prevent.

The intent or profit is generally irrelevant to most copyright law. All that generally maters is the amount that it should have cost to make use of it (the actual damage is the money the author didn't get that they would have gotten for the usage). So even if you gave it away for free (like many file sharers do), the damages are based on what the licensing for that should have been, plus a punitive penalty. Whether you give away the work or sell it doesn't matter because it is still a work that the creator should have been paid for as it is their work.


"Unlicensed" is the red flag here. You have no rights to copy the song. You as the editor are responsible for purchasing a license to use the song. Unfortunately, the license for a popular song would be in the thousands and there has not been any solution for small businesses who just produce wedding and birthday videos. So, no it is not legal. Will you be sued? If your business becomes worthy of suing, then yes, you can and will be sued.

Commercial purpose is not the same as publishing. If you are being paid to create something with someone else's copyrighted material, you are infringing copyrights. If you are creating it for fun, no payment, and not publishing it then you are probably protected under fair use.

Disclaimer:This is all for educational purposes only.

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