Friday, January 15, 2010

Producers Say No! Can We Use Old Footage?

Dear Rich: We were told by the producers of a local television station that a now defunct television program that hasn't aired for over ten years is no longer available for licensing to filmmakers because there isn't enough money in it and they do not have the staff to locate, edit and make available the footage. We actually have the footage taken from a SVHS master and want to include the show along with their on-screen talent (host and interviewer). We have permission from the host to use his likeness but have been unable to secure a license from the producers. What can we do? That depends. If someone refuses to give you permission to use copyrighted material, you can't -- with a few exceptions -- compel them to license the material. You can of course run the risk of using the material without permission under the theory that copying and performing a short snippet is a fair use because you are using the footage for purposes of commentary or criticism. The Dear Rich Staff found one example where the makers of a movie biography of Muhammad Ali used 41 seconds from a boxing match film in their biography. A court considered it a fair use. This site talks about the case and other video cases, as well.