A Fundraiser’s Comprehensive Guide to Copyright Considerations

A Fundraiser’s Comprehensive Guide to Copyright Considerations

Imagine, if you will, a horrifying scenario. You’ve worked for months on a virtual fundraising event. You’ve procured amazing auction items. You’ve recorded incredible videos telling heartstring-tugging stories about the great work your nonprofit is doing. You’ve spent hours upon hours attending to all of the details. You’re ready, you’re SO ready – you’re off to a great start – and BAM! Your entire live stream gets shut down. Why, oh WHY? Because you didn’t consider copyright rules. Don’t let this happen to you! Here’s what you need to know, and review with your legal team, regarding copyright and licensing for live streamed fundraisers.   

Music – Use It Wisely!

Music is an integral part of any virtual event. It sets the tone and mood from the moment you kick off your pre-show, to the final goodnight. Music evokes emotion, adds flair, and brings people together – bottom line, you NEED music in your live stream, no doubt about it! Whether it’s in videos, pre- or post-show, it’s something that does translate well to viewers. Live music is especially awesome for folks listening and watching from home.

If you have your heart set on using copyrighted music, you must register with a performing rights org like ASCAP or Global Music Rights and you must pay a fee. If you don’t have your heart set on a particular piece, and you don’t want to register or pay a fee, that’s quite all right! You have other options, like using royalty-free music OR music that’s part of the public domain.

Music: Royalty-Free 

Some artists put their music up on royalty-free sites. They’ll let you use their work for free as long as you credit them. Need help finding appropriate royalty-free music for your next virtual event? We’ve got you covered! Reach out.

Public Domain: Music, Videos + Still Images

How can you avoid copyright infringement altogether? Simple: By using material that’s publicly owned, not individually owned. This is called the public domain. The public domain contains creative works that are NOT protected by intellectual property laws. All creative material falls in the public domain 70 years after the death of the artist. 

Video + Still Images

What’s the easiest way to avoid copyright infringement with regard to video and still pictures? Shoot them yourself, or have someone on your team do it. But let’s say you REALLY need video of the Australian Outback, or the Great Pyramids of Giza, and you don’t have the time or resources to capture that footage yourself. You can find video and images that are part of the public domain on websites like Unsplash. There you’ll find stunning, high-quality, high resolution pictures that you can use without paying a fee.


A legal contract is your best option for protecting yourself and your org from getting shut down OR facing fines. If you have a live band, your contract should state that they will not play copyrighted music. And if they do, they will be held responsible. Your legal counsel can come up with a contract that absolves you and your org in the unlikely event that copyright rules are violated.  

Legal Counsel

Consult an attorney as part of the planning process for your virtual or hybrid fusion event. You’ll sleep much better knowing everything you’re doing and streaming is legal! Perhaps you can find an attorney who supports your mission, who’ll draw up a simple yet safeguarding contract, pro-bono. It never hurts to ask!

As a nonprofit, you don’t have immunity from copyright laws. You do, however, have plenty of options for what your donors and supporters see and hear during your fundraising event. Schedule your free consultation and let’s start planning your copyleft virtual in-person or hybrid fusion fundraising event!