Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Showing Book Covers in Movies

Dear Rich: My company is creating an educational DVD in which a child reads a book out loud (the book is depicted in only a positive way). Is it necessary to get permission to show the book's cover? Is there a certain amount of time (i.e. a few seconds) that we could show the cover that would be considered "fair use"? I'm so glad you asked. The short answers to your questions are: "Probably" and "No". There is no fixed time period which qualifies for fair use and although we believe that a few seconds of a book cover should qualify as a fair use...  unfortunately it will require a court case to prove it actually is a fair use. (The Dear Rich staff has provided considerable advice on fair use here.) Showing the book in a positive manner may discourage a claim but it doesn't get you off the hook if you are pursued. To be prudent you should  probably ask for permission. What's not mentioned in your letter is whether you have permission to read the book. The Dear Rich staff doesn't want to bring your head down, but reading a book aloud in a movie would be considered a public performance and without permission (or a fair use defense), it's an infringement.

Which reminds us that once, not so long ago, a big-time movie company asked permission to use a Nolo book in a big time movie with one of the Dear Rich staff's favorite actresses