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Snapchat allows music capture in videos – is it licensed?

By | Published on Friday 20 February 2015


So, you know the Snapchats? Well, if you like to snap but have no chat, good news. A revamp of the iPhone version of the popular messaging app means that if you have music playing through your device’s Music, Spotify, Pandora or Soundcloud app, that will now be automatically captured when you make videos in the Snapchat app. You can, in theory, still chat, but from what we can see you have to shout to be heard above the music.

Which is all fun, and may well result in a flurry of highly amusing (without a doubt) lip sync videos flooding their way across the Snapchat network. Though, here’s a thing, by capturing a track playing through an audio player within a video, and then sharing that content with others, that surely constitutes some kind of ‘synchronisation’ and ‘communication to the public’ of said song and sound recording, does it not?

Many in the music industry yesterday wondered whether this new add-on function within Snapchat is in any way licensed. The tech firm is yet to respond to that question, though given that users can grab any track they like for their Snapchat videos, that would require blanket licences on both the sound recording and publishing side of the equation, and you might expect licensing deals of that scale to have been made public.

It’s possible that Snapchat is of the opinion that no such licences are required given the limitations on length, distribution and publication that apply to videos made within the app. Perhaps its lawyers reckon it’s a grey area. Though the copyright experts we spoke to thought it was more taupe.

And the boss of the National Music Publishers Association, David Israelite, told Billboard: “Anytime a commercial application wants to use music in its for-profit operations there is a concern that the music is properly licensed and that songwriters are properly compensated. We are looking at this new Snapchat functionality to determine if it is properly licensed”.

Of course, there have been rampant rumours that Snapchat – rather than Apple – might be trying to buy Taylor Swift label Big Machine. With the tech start-up apparently seeking a $16-19 billion valuation in a current investment round, perhaps it could just buy all the labels and publishers and then it wouldn’t need to worry about licensing anything.