Over To You: Is It Legal To DJ With Unofficial Mashups and Remixes?

Last updated 6 April, 2018

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Software like Hit ‘n’ Mix makes it easier to make your own re-edits than ever before. But is it legal to DJ with them?

Reader Deejay Resistor writes: “I just wanted to know if websites like Crooklyn Clan and Crack4DJs are legal sites to buy remixes. I recently heard unless you get special permission from the artist, it is illegal to download remixes made by DJs and non-pro producers. I found a website that has legal remixes for purchase on CD and vinyl but most of the time the best club music remixes are those made by my friends and also other DJs that they post to download for free. Are these types of free remixes legal to download and play while I’m DJing? Can I make my own remixes and save them to play later? Please help as I am very confused on what is and isn’t legal as far as remixes and mashups go.”

Digital DJ Tips says:

Three issues here: the moral one, the legal one, and the practical one. The moral one is: How do you recompense the artist for their work? Does the fact that you’re a pro DJ, playing the artists’ music to the public, who therefore may then go out and buy it, mean you can play music that’s been unofficially remixed that’s not possible to buy yet? If you want to sleep well at night but accept that technology and music performance is moving faster than the law can keep up with, you need a view on this.

The legal one is: Is it allowed? Well, both of those sites say “you certify you already own the originals” as you enter them. If you don’t own the originals you’re almost definitely outside the law. Same goes with SoundCloud mashup downloads, I’d guess. For your own remixes, you already own the music anyway, so you could be OK. I am no lawyer though.

I spoke to a colleague, Rick from established dance music label All Around The World, who says this: “I have looked at Crack4DJs and the disclaimer on entry to the site appears to be playing on the fact that if you own copies of the material they are manipulating then this is legal.”

“I very much doubt this is the case. Any recorded material can not be sold, played or whatever without the express permission of the rights holder which is normally the record label. To do what they are doing legally they would effectively have to license the material from the rights holder much in the same way other labels license tracks for compilation albums etc. I can not see that they are licensing anything and doubt they would be able to licence the majority of tracks on there as the labels would just not want to do it.”

But now the practical angle. Part of being a DJ is to mash-up and remake stuff, either live or by playing different versions of it, that you have made yourself or your friends (or “virtual friends” on the web) have made.

My personal view as a music lover and DJ is that if you buy music where you can, and don’t sell on remakes and re-edits you find on the web (or indeed buy), you’re overall doing more good than bad – after all, you’re promoting the music every time you play it. But it’s a really hard area to get to grips with, the law is different in every country, and the moral maze is a complicated one around music copyright.

All I’ll say is that nearly every DJ I know plays a mixture of bought music, and downloaded remixes etc they couldn’t get elsewhere, or that have been shared with them by the people who remixed them. Artists sometimes love this being done to their work, sometimes hate it. So do record labels (look at the whole hip hop mixtape phenomena and the way the labels swing in and out of favour with that).

Now, I’m hoping some knowledgeable readers can help us out (I suspect the debate will be a long one, but it’s all useful). So, are you a reader with a lot of knowledge in this area? Is it OK to download or buy mash-ups, re-edits and remixes that aren’t official? If so, under what circumstances?

We’d love to hear your thoughts! Please let us know in the comments.

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