If I make some electronic music and it contains voice of a sport commentator (soccer game) over the music of my production, then when publishing the track, do I owe this commentator any royalties?

Can this cause issues to my track being listed on any music streaming/distribution channel?

  • 3
    The safe option would be to record the same lines as this commentator and either imitate the voice yourself or find a friend who can do it. Also, you should try Law.SE, since this is a legal question.
    – user45266
    Mar 24, 2020 at 18:49
  • 3
    @user45266 recording the same lines as the commentator is also likely to be infringement, because there is copyright in the text that was spoken by the commentator (unless the words were meaningless or the passage was so short as to lack creativity or originality, such as "goal!" or "what a game!" or the like).
    – phoog
    Mar 24, 2020 at 19:55
  • @phoog Ah, good point. I was imagining "GOOOOOOAL!!!" being sampled in a song :)
    – user45266
    Mar 25, 2020 at 21:32
  • 3
    I’m voting to close this question because legal issues are off topic.
    – Aaron
    Aug 21, 2022 at 4:28
  • Legal questions like this are explicitly off topic here.
    – Doktor Mayhem
    Aug 21, 2022 at 22:17

4 Answers 4


If caught without asking permission up front, it gets you a law suit, or at minimum, a takedown.

Commentary is not covered under music publication laws, but under far more stringent broadcast laws. You could try to claim "fair use" but it's far better to have written permission first. They may even give you usage for free, if you're lucky.

Note: Laws change per territory & IANAL, so it's best if you consult one in your territory rather than accept the advice of interwebz lawyerz.

  • 2
    The second paragraph is questionable. Recorded commentary and recorded music both fall under the copyright protection afforded to sound recordings. There is nothing in these laws (in any jurisdiction I'm aware of) that applies more stringently to a broadcast.
    – phoog
    Mar 24, 2020 at 18:18
  • 1
    @phoog: Under US law, when recording a cover of a piece of music which has already been made available to the public in recorded form, one must in the absence of other licensing arrangements file for a compulsory mechanical license, but need not ask "permission", since the composer would have no authority to refuse. By contrast, if the text of a commentary is sufficiently novel as to merit copyright protection, its creator would have every right to refuse any requests to produce new recordings of that text.
    – supercat
    Mar 25, 2020 at 17:14

Ask a lawyer. Anyone here would be remiss for providing concrete advice on this unless they are a lawyer.

A few things to keep in mind:

  1. Always ask permission. I've never been turned down but would hate to find out what it's like to have an angry composer, artist or well known public figure sue for damages.

  2. I think that it's Harry Fox that owns the mechanical rights to record other people's music. That's not "recording" a record of them playing in the background. If I want to record myself playing West Coast Blues by Wes Montgomery and sell it as part of an album, or as a single for download, I need (I) permission from Wes' estate (which I have in writing) and (II) a contract with Harry Fox for n-copies paid up front (no lay away plan, I asked). In fact paying Harry Fox doesn't protect you from an artist law suit. They say right on the site something like "It is the responsibility of the person requesting this license to secure permission from the agency that holds the copyright for the work to reproduce it...".

  3. The above scenario does not cover the intentional or unintentional recording of a protected and paid for recording of something which is already a copyrighted work in its own right (as far as I know). So there might be additional payments to make. For example if I record myself for YouTube doing something while Led Zeppelin plays in the background I might have Atlantic records after me if they still own the early recordings. That's Jimmy and the rest of the gang, and Atlantic or Swan Song (owned by Jimmy) all of whom have deep pockets. This may or may not attract Harry Fox's attention.

  4. It is true that some reuse of recorded material is allowed under US patent and copyright law if is satisfies certain criterion, e.g. if it's for educational use. And Harry Fox, BMI, and ASCAP, as well as the artists have no claim if the work is parody. That's right, make fun using it and that is protected. So in theory Weird Al doesn't need permission to make recordings like Eat It, but again it's a good practice. Why make people angry if you can get them on their side.

  5. These laws change over time! There are always changes to patent and copyright laws so what may be true today could change. Pay for some professional advice. There is a series of books called NoLo, which are do it yourself law books. They have patent and copyright books in the series.

  6. The issue with redistributing recording of someone in the background depend on the situation and it is not clear from your question what that situation is. When I started writing this answer I assumed you used a recording of a sports commentator in your track. Someone owns that and you definitely need to pay all players upfront prior to distributing (and possible recording) the work. If the person came into the studio of their own free will and put down some phrases for you then you may own them nothing. It's on them that they let themselves be recorded without a contract. On the other hand, if they were at an event and didn't know they were being recorded that could be illegal depending on the state (for US).

  7. I have heard of cases where such things are forgiven because the person doing it wasn't trying to make it big, or earn money from it. That is the issue, are you making $$ from the recording. People post videos and recordings of themselves at gigs and playing cover tunes all the time. They never get dinged. It has to cause damage to the other individuals and you need to be benefiting from it for it to be worth their time to chase you down. On the other hand there are cases where some poor kid got dragged through the mud because someone wanted to make an example out of them to scare off others. I wouldn't risk it.

As for your recordings on streaming services. You have several issues. If you knowingly used someone else's recording without permission then you did use someone else's property. When you uploaded it you would have had to check a box asserting that you were the sole owner of the copyrighted material and/or had permissions in place to distribute. You need to think about whether that is true. At the very least they could have it taken down. At the worst sue for damages.

  • Harry Fox does not cover everything, only US publishers -- and probably not every US publisher, for that matter.
    – phoog
    Mar 24, 2020 at 19:31
  • Not sure about that. But if check them first just so you dont miss them.
    – user50691
    Mar 24, 2020 at 19:37
  • To be certain, I have no idea if there is a specific publisher who is not covered by Harry Fox. I just assume that there are be people out there who are publishing their own music, since that's so easy to do these days, who have not made any agreements with Harry Fox.
    – phoog
    Mar 24, 2020 at 19:59
  • It has nothing to do with "publishing" as I understand it. Mechanical copy is a different issue. Then again I am not 100% clear on these details.
    – user50691
    Mar 24, 2020 at 20:01
  • 1
    Weird Al doesn't need permission to parody other musicians' work, but notably he almost always asks for it anyhow. The few cases where he hasn't gotten permission (generally due to miscommunication) have caused him some issues - see his feud with Seal over "Amish Paradise", or Atlantic Records over "You're Pitiful". Mar 25, 2020 at 13:25

The answer depends on where you got the voice of the sports commentator:

  • If you hire someone for the purpose of your recording, then you own the copyright, and your use of the sound recording does not infringe on your own rights.
  • If you use a recording of a sports commentator that is in the public domain, then there is no copyright to infringe. Whether a given recording is in the public domain, however, will vary from one country to another.
  • If you make an agreement with the copyright owner that permits you to use the recording in this way, you are not infringing the copyright. Whether you owe royalties or not will be specified in the agreement.

Otherwise, you are probably infringing someone's copyright. The owner of the copyright is probably not the sports commentator. More likely, it is the company that produced the broadcast. You could be found civilly or criminally liable for the infringement. One element of the liability will be lost royalty income on the part of the copyright holder.

Whether you are actually liable will depend on several factors, including how much of the sports commentator's voice you used and which jurisdiction's law is being used to make the determination.

  • I'm using comments from a soccer game, the recording is found on YouTube.I'm not sure if there are any copyright that protects it. Mar 24, 2020 at 18:30
  • 1
    @werberbang copyright is automatic, so if the recording is less than 50 years old it's almost certainly protected by copyright. If it's older, it could still be protected by copyright depending on the circumstances and the jurisdiction.
    – phoog
    Mar 24, 2020 at 18:36
  • 1
    You found it on YouTube. That doesn't mean its public domain. The person who put it up there may have broken the law
    – user50691
    Mar 24, 2020 at 18:57
  • @ggcg or the person who put it up there may own the copyright: many commercial sports broadcasters have YouTube channels where they post clips of their broadcasts.
    – phoog
    Mar 24, 2020 at 19:28
  • I agree. In that case they have all the right to post as that is self promotion. But no one has the right to take.
    – user50691
    Mar 24, 2020 at 19:30

Fair use laws in the U.S. are middling-ly clear imo, but I find Fair-dealing laws in Canada less so. Europe and the UK have their own similar frameworks. Generally, it depends on how/why you are using the recording (parody, education, etc.), how much of it you are using etc. If you think people will hear your song and that you will earn money from it, then your best best is to talk to a lawyer in your country. If you're a hobbyist and chances are few people will hear it, it's a judgement call tbh.

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