Monday, May 5, 2014

Wants to Use Bicycle Race Footage for Trade Show

Dear Rich: I work in an in-house marketing department, and I’m creating video content for an upcoming trade show. The company I work for specializes in projection technology and information networks. During the show we want to tell a story of “a large city that successfully manages an international sporting event (crowds/traffic/etc..).” This would be done through faux news broadcasts of a cycling race happening through the city. A cycling race is happening very soon in my city, and I want to film it and use clips for the faux news broadcasts. Obviously the environment this content would be shown is commercial (trade show), but the content in form is identical to editorial. There are no direct endorsements to our company or products, and I’m not trying to sell the footage, just a faux news report about the race in the city. Anyway could this qualify as fair use? Communicating information? I know I could attempt to film it in a way where cyclists are unrecognizable, but the fact that they wear numbers and specific jerseys, this could be very difficult. You won't need to make a fair use defense because you will own the copyright in the bicycle race footage (assuming you film it yourself). So, you're free to do what you want with it under copyright law. However you should familiarize yourself with the rules of trademark and right of publicity laws (below).
Commercial use? You state that the content is identical in form to editorial content. That may be so, but your purpose -- like an informative advertorial or infomercial -- is to sell your products and services, not to present information about the bicycle race. Having a commercial purpose doesn't mean you will run into trouble but it opens up the possibility of trademark or right of publicity claims. We think the odds of such claims happening are low but if the race organizers (or race sponsors) or the individual riders see the presentation and perceive themselves as endorsing your company, then the aggrieved parties can chase you under these two theories of law. If you're still concerned, you can lower your odds of running into problems, by blurring out race logos, sponsoring trademarks and individual riders that are easily recognizable.

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