This story would be funny if the underlying topic was not so serious and important.
I was recently interviewed by a reporter for the Atlanta Daily Report for a story regarding a local organization that had to take down a video on a website devoted to the cause of suicide prevention. The reason for the takedown was that the organization was using a version of the Fray’s hit song “How to Save a Life” without obtaining a license from the band’s music publisher Sony Music. Despite the organization’s worthy public service goals they could not utilize a version of the song in the video without negotiating a synchronization license. The video itself dealt with raising awareness of lawyer suicide, which I learned is a very real and serious problem; quite possibly an epidemic.
I don’t know how this association ran into this problem in the first place. It could be that they made the common mistake of thinking that the Fair Use exception in the Copyright Act covers all non‑profit uses of music; it does not. I am routinely contacted by non-profit organizations or other services who are seeking advice in using music to promote their various causes and they are often surprised to learn that there is a cost associated with the use. The fact that a proposed use is non-commercial is only one of the four elements of the fair- use analysis in the Copyright Act.
The ironic part of the whole story is that the organization in question was the State Bar of Georgia – and I poked fun at them by saying “there are a lot of talented entertainment lawyers in Atlanta”. However, the Bar should be applauded for bringing this serious issue to light.