This past summer I had the pleasure of shooting a Vegas wedding video done up music video style. The clients were good friends of ours and had chosen to remake a wedding video that they’d fallen in love with set to Black Eyed Peas ‘The Time – Dirty Bit’. Normally I’d choose to do something completely original as its hard to top a previously made video but I accepted the job knowing I’d find a way to make it their own.

I set out to give it an original spin by playing up on the bride’s Indian heritage and I remixed the Dirty Bit track adding a swath of Indian instruments and drums, playing the sitar myself and mixing in wonderful tabla tracks. The end product was amazing. We shot the video in both a traditional Indian and Western wedding styles and it was a multicultural success.

Within days of posting on Youtube, I was hit with the expected Copyright Violation from Universal Music Group claiming infringement. I filed the dispute and wrote the following:

I believe that our claim for use of this title in our video is fair use for the following reasons:

  1. 1. Our wedding video is not commercial in any way. This is a simple music video of a wedding and the view count is expected to be well below 5000 views in its lifetime.
  2. The use of this song is clearly transformative as it has been compiled as a remix of the original with new material consisting of Indian sitar and tablas reflecting the Indian heritage of the bride making this a highly celebratory tribute to the original music as a joyful bringing together of eastern and western cultures. There is a strong development of the original into a new ‘multicultural mix’ of the piece. The addition of a clearly multicultural wedding video gives the musical piece a tremendous new vector.
  3. We believe that our use of this piece, which debuted over 4 years ago will not adversely affect its sales but in fact bring more attention to the original artist by promoting their music in new ways. The credit is clearly attributed to the original artists and no intention has been made otherwise.

Almost 30 days passed and I was beginning to think my argument had softened some hearts at UMG and they’d let my not for profit video play without a problem. But no, on the last day they had to reject my free use argument and Youtube took the video down and slapped me with a 6 month restriction of use penalty substantially reducing my well earned video publishing abilities.

Lesson learned. If you don’t have permission from the artist or managing rights company be prepared to receive no love for your project, no matter how not for profit it may be.

PS – I had attempted the same process as above and won the right to use The Beatles song BECAUSE (a capella version) for a wedding video earlier in the year. I always liked the Beatles and have never given any attention to the Black Eyed Peas whatsoever. My loyalties are well founded indeed.