Karaoke, has been used in countless films and series as a way to break down walls between characters and lighten the mood, much like in real life. Some famous examples include the karaoke scenes in Lost in Translation and When Harry Met Sally.

It may seem like a no brainer to incorporate a karaoke scene into your project; however, incorporating karaoke in a movie or series involves navigating through legal intricacies to secure the necessary rights.*

In this blog post, we will go over:

  1. How to get permission to use a karaoke track for a film or series
  2. What songs you can use for a karaoke scene
  3. How can you display and perform your karaoke scene

How do I get permission to use a karaoke track in your movie or series?

If you are planning to use karaoke in your movie, TV show, commercial, or other production, you need to obtain the proper usage rights for the song or songs you would like to use. To legally use karaoke in your scene you will need the following rights: Synchronization Rights,  Recording Rights, and Graphic Rights. We will explore each of them in more detail below.

Securing Synchronization Rights

Before you can use any music, including karaoke tracks, in your movie or series, you must obtain synchronization rights. Synchronization rights refer to the permission required from the copyright owner of the musical composition (the songwriter or their publisher) to synchronize the music with visual content, such as a scene in a film or series. This legal process ensures that creators respect the intellectual property of the songwriter.

To obtain synchronization rights, you must reach out to the publisher representing the songwriter of the karaoke track you wish to use. The publisher is responsible for granting the rights and negotiating the synchronization fee. The fee can vary depending on factors such as the popularity of the song, the size and distribution of your movie or series, and the prominence of the music within the scene. It is crucial to budget for these costs during pre-production to avoid any legal disputes down the road.

Acquiring Recording Rights

In addition to obtaining synchronization rights for the musical composition, you must also secure permission from the record company or producer that owns the master recording of the karaoke track. The master recording is the specific version of the song used in the karaoke performance, distinct from the original version of the song by the artist.

In the case of karaoke, you will need to seek permission from the karaoke company that produced the track. Companies like Sunfly, Party Tyme, or Stingray hold the recording rights to their respective karaoke versions. It is essential to approach them early in the production process to negotiate the terms of use and the associated fees.

Acquiring both synchronization and recording rights ensures that you have the legal authority to incorporate the karaoke track into your movie or series without infringing on the copyrights of the original creators. Though there is one additional point to consider.

When utilizing karaoke in a movie or series, filmmakers often display the karaoke lyrics on the screen to add a sense of realism in building the karaoke experience. However, displaying the lyrics in written form brings an additional layer of legal complexity, as it involves graphic rights.

Group of three people singing in a karaoke room to Everybody by Backstreet Boys.
If you display lyrics in your production be sure to get graphic rights.

Graphic rights encompass the copyright of the songwriter's lyrics when presented visually rather than just in audio form. To incorporate karaoke lyrics into your film, you must negotiate the necessary graphic rights with the publisher of the song. This involves an extra fee, and the cost may vary depending on the length and significance of the lyrics within the scene.

Remember that obtaining each of the three respective rights is a must and functions quite similar to obtaining the usage rights for music in the rest of your production.

What karaoke songs can we use in our movie or show?

Woman singing to Backstreet Boys, Everybody at Star Karaoke karaoke room in Gothenburg with lyrics displayed on the screen behind her.

We may have overwhelmed you with the complexities of different copyrights, but don't worry, there are some options to still options available to use music in your project. Here are the possibilities ranked by ease of use:

1. Utilize songs in the public domain

Certain songs lose their copyright protection when they become old enough or are released into the public domain for other reasons. When a song is in the public domain, you have the freedom to use it without any restrictions. However, please note that the sound recording associated with the song may still be under copyright and would require clearance. This is especially true for karaoke tracks as you should be aware syncronization rights associated with your song of choice.

While these songs might not be the latest chart-toppers, some popular ones, such as "House of the Rising Sun" or "That's All Right" by Elvis, are available in the public domain.

Here you can find a collection of public domain tracks to explore for your project.

2. Create your own original song

If you possess all the copyrights to a song you've created, you have full control over its use in any manner you desire. While this option grants you artistic freedom, crafting a masterpiece can be a challenging endeavor. However, it's a fulfilling process that allows you to tailor the music precisely to fit your project's needs.

3. Obtain clearance for commercial hits

While it may seem daunting, using even the biggest hits in the world is possible with the proper clearance. This involves securing rights for the composition, lyrics, and sound recording. While the process can be time-consuming and entail some costs, it grants you the opportunity to use renowned music in your movie or series, elevating its appeal and emotional impact.

Remember, each option has its advantages and challenges, and it's essential to select the best approach based on your project's requirements, budget, and creative vision.

Display and perform your karaoke with Singa

Of course once you have managed to obtain all the rights for your selected karaoke song, you will need a karaoke software to play it on! If you are looking for an intuitive karaoke software for your scene, you can consider using Singa. If you would like to use Singa in your movie or show please reach out to us at support@singa.com.

Group of people enjoying singing karaoke in a karaoke room with Singa.

Karaoke can add a unique and entertaining dimension to any movie or series, captivating audiences and bringing them into the heart of the story. However, using karaoke tracks in your production requires careful consideration of the legal aspects involved. Securing synchronization rights, recording rights, and graphic rights is vital to ensure compliance with copyright laws and to avoid any legal issues in the future.

By diligently navigating these legal intricacies and obtaining the necessary permissions, you can confidently incorporate karaoke into your work.

*The content of this article is not legal advice, but rather an introduction into the process of obtaining rights for the usage of karaoke music in a production. You are responsible for aquiring your own permissions and for communicating with all governing bodies and rights holders.