In films like Step Up, Wikipedia shows some songs as featured songs and some songs as non-featured. Even only featured songs appear on their album. So what are those non-featured songs and what are the rules regarding the usage of non-featured songs? I mean, are movie makers free to use any song as non-featured song or are there any rules regarding it? I mean doesn't they have to pay for them?

  • Doesn't that just mean that the song was in the movie, but not included on the soundtrack? Commented Nov 27, 2013 at 9:10
  • I mean are movie-maker free to use any song as non-featured song. Doesn't they have to pay them for non-featured song or completely not?
    – Ankit Sharma
    Commented Nov 27, 2013 at 9:31
  • 2
    Songs are copyrighted - anything other than a very short snippet is not fair use, so would have to be paid for.
    – iandotkelly
    Commented Nov 27, 2013 at 9:43
  • 1
    Featured is only used on the wikipedia pages in a general sense, not some technical specific meaning. I would change your question as 'non-featured' has no meaning.
    – iandotkelly
    Commented Nov 27, 2013 at 9:57
  • @iandotkelly when you browse through Dance movie songs on internet, they also list them as Featured and non-featured. I am not sure if its technical name or not but popular for sure.
    – Ankit Sharma
    Commented Nov 27, 2013 at 10:16

1 Answer 1


Anything beyond 'fair use' of a copyrighted piece of work is illegal without getting permission or a license to use it.

Description of US copyright 'rules' for fair use can be seen at copyright.gov. Clearly interpretation of fair use is complex but basically the main aspects are:

  • Whether you intend to profit from the use of the copyrighted material - a commercial movie using a song is benefiting from it and trying to profit from its use

  • The size of the sample of music in relation to the size of the copyrighted work in total. A whole song is more significant than a few seconds of it.

  • How the use of the material affects the profitability of it

Now using the music in a movie arguably might boost the sales of the original song, so an artist or the owner of the work might give permission and not demand a fee. Clearly anything featured in a soundtrack album has potential to negatively impact sales of the original, someone might choose to buy the soundtrack rather than the original to obtain a copy of that song - so a license fee would normally be involved.

However as the document from copyright.gov states - it's safest to obtain permission from the owner of the work. If they demand a license fee, then it's up to you to decide whether its fair use or not risk using it anyway or to decide to pay the fee, or not use the music.

The RIAA have even been known to send cease-and-desist letters to YouTube users who have music in the background of their amateur non commercial videos so this is a hotly contested area.

  • 1
    I'm sure there are ways that businesses can pay for licenses for using a song without negotiating with each and every artist - but I don't know the details if someone else can add this in another answer that would be great.
    – iandotkelly
    Commented Oct 5, 2014 at 19:11

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