I wrote and shot a 10 minute short film. In one scene a character is listening and dancing to the song “Car Wash” by Rose Royce. It is important that the song is played in the scene. Will I get in any legal trouble if I use this song in my short without permission? Or would it be alright to just go ahead and use it. I plan to go to festivals with it and sites like ifilm.com and do not plan to make any money off of it.

–Al
Hollywood, CA

Using an unlicensed song is pretty common in short films, most of which never get any real release, and therefore no real legal exposure. Some festivals require that you show legal clearance for all music you use. Some don’t.

If it’s important, you may be able to get a “festival license” for the song. Basically, it’s a cut rate that lets you use the song in your movie, provided it never gets a commercial release. Call the record label and ask to speak to their rights department.