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Dan O’Day Reveals: “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 purchase 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

•  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

•  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 book?

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

•  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?


•  "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

•  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.)


 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 company?

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

•  For using a copyrighted work as the basis for what commonly 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 legal.

    (Does your morning show do lots of parodies? If so, are they
    legal? If they’re illegal and you distribute them on CDs, podcasts
    or other digital downloads — 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.

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.


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!"

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?

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Product Reviews

Showing reviews 1-10 of 24 | Next

  1. How many books can prevent you from doing something illegal?

    Posted by Glen Pavlovich

    This may be the longest review EVER. But, it kept me from doing something illegal.

    At our production company (Commercials By The Dozen) we create finished commercials primarily from radio station client’s scripts. For our production music, I have purchased several buyout production music libraries and I maintain subscriptions to two different royalty-free music providers. We use these libraries exclusively under license.

    Recently I was contacted by a client asking us to produce commercials for a live music event being held in their community. During an email exchange, this client asked us what the “best way” to send in music for these commercials would be.

    Message: Hey... I’m needing a smoking concert spot...beach bands, outdoor show... hows the best way to do this? write a script ... send music clips? etc. don’t want to make it clunky. What do you guys prefer....Thanks

    Based on the knowledge gained from your book, he was thusly advised:

    Hi (name redacted)...Your suggestions are great for this type of commercial. Something to consider: We have licenses for all of the music we use in our produced commercials, and we ONLY provide music
    that we have secured a license to use. If you provide us with music to use in the production, we trust that you also have secured a license or
    written permission to use the music provided

    The response from the client dismissed our admonishment and instead scolded us for not better describing how we wanted to receive the information.

    Ok... Thanks, BUT this in no way had answered my question. As to can you do a concert type spot. How do you prefer to do it. This is an outdoor event, old beach bands....they are not concerned with
    us using their music to promote their show.

    As you might imagine, this morning we received the script and several attached mp3s of performances from the acts who will be appearing at the live event. Again, with the knowledge I gained from your book and by referring to it again when engaging the customer, I responded with this simple email:

    Hi (redacted),

    I've received the music attachments for use in the (redacted) commercials. I trust that you've obtained written permission from the publisher/copyright holder to use these recordings in commercial advertising. If so, will you provide me with a copy of that agreement?

    Additionally, I have attached a hold-harmless agreement for your signature. In brief, it states that you and your company will defend me and my company in any lawsuit brought by the copyright holder of these recordings for using them in this manner.

    You can provide copies of these [signed] documents via email.


    My goal, of course, was not to upset my customers or be oppositional. It is to protect myself from the much richer lawyers who will certainly be representing the artist, the songwriters, the record companies, etc. Based on the number of exclamation points used in his final response, I can assume that this customer is a bit frustrated with my answer. However, I can also come to the safe conclusion that he does not have permission to use the music provided.


    I sent 2 emails upfront ASKING how and what before I sent this spot! I pay my royalty's to all 3 companies....all that stuff is in a file at the offices! I've got a station to run... Don't
    have the time, Trash it! I'll do the spot!


    In my final email response to the client, I sent him the pages of your book written for such a situation and suggested that he purchase the book himself to gain a clearer understanding of copyright law and the implications of violating it.


    There is a great resource for clarity on when using music in commercials constitutes copyright infringement. It's written by Dan O'Day and in it, he interviews a lawyer who works in the fields of Entertainment and Intellectual Property. With his permission, I am attaching a portion of that book to this email. The entire book is available for purchase and download here:


    Thanks Dan. Your contribution to broadcasting and production is, perhaps, more valuable than you are aware.

  2. Voila! End of another episode of wasted time.

    Posted by Scott Carty, KPLZ/KVI/KOMO

    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.

  3. Should be required reading

    Posted by Mike Carta, Super Sweepers

    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.

  4. the perfect solution

    Posted by Kevin Ankeny, WGFR

    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.

  5. a wealth of good information and advice

    Posted by Rich Roszel, Crown Financial Ministries

    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!

  6. Now, improper requests are easily resolved.

    Posted by Kevin Zimmermann, Midwest Communications

    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.

  7. answered pretty much all of the "myth-or-fact" questions

    Posted by Travis McGinnis, Aim Studios Productions

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

  8. Now our account managers are better able to tackle the tough questions

    Posted by Chris Williams, Journal Broadcast Group

    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 20 bucks, it's practically a steal!

  9. Several times a year we have clients ask us to put a specific song under their spot.

    Posted by Mike Lewis, KRDO

    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.

  10. Now there's no more argument

    Posted by Craig Allen, Citadel Broadcasting/Saginaw

    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.

Showing reviews 1-10 of 24 | Next

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