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For a project at university I design and implement an android application. In this application, I would like to present the user snippets of famous songs which they should then recognize. The application will NEVER be published in a play store or similiar and will only be used by participants of my user study and my supervisors.

Is it allowed to use songs, if I will not make any profit out of that?

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Any use of the song snippets in your App can be copyright infringement (in the US), Fair Use (U.S. Copyright Office) not withstanding. Not distributing the App and/or using the App only in a limited group for the study, or not making money from the App doesn't usually matter when it comes to copyright infringement.

Fair Use does have some educational exceptions; read the link above and see if your case may fit. But the final assessment of educational use would be made by a court if you were sued for infringement.

If the use in your App doesn't fall under the education exception, you still probably run little risk of the copyright holders finding out if the App use is private and within a small group, but that's your choice to make.

You can always Google the name of the music/recording company; most provide ways online to request licensing of samples, but the cost may be prohibitive, or permission may simply not be available for popular songs.

  • I can think of some other narrow circumstances where fair use might apply (e.g. where it is background noise present on the ground during a live news report), but none which would be relevant to an app like the one in the question. If it were used as a mere class project to show you knew how to code, I suspect that it might be considered educational fair use, although the safer bet would be to personally record out of copyright tunes made yourself. – ohwilleke Feb 5 at 23:41
  • That's interesting; I assume it would be fair use if a political party licensed a song and it was background music on a continuous CNN broadcast. But maybe not. – BlueDogRanch Feb 6 at 0:08

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