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Old June 10th, 2010, 08:52 PM   #1
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Yet Another Copyright Question- Discussing Movies

Like in Swordfish. At the beginning of the film John Travolta launches into a huge spiel about Al Pacino and "Dog Day Afternoon"

Does anyone have experience with this type usage? In the production I'd like to have two guys sitting around talking about their favorite movies for a bit...maybe through in a few quotes...just the same old stuff we all do with our friends on the weekends.

Everything would be positive...were talking about favorite movies not ripping into one. Probably.

If you would have to clear this who on earth would you call? The studio business affairs office maybe?

Any thoughts?
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Old June 10th, 2010, 11:12 PM   #2
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Nobody owns anyones right to "talk about" a copyright work.

They just own the copyright to the work itself.

So unless your characters are QUOTING content from the work - theres no copyright violation.

This advice does NOT touch on the subjects of slander or libel or anything else - just what you've suggested - someone in a copyright work, talking ABOUT some other work.




That's how I see it, but this advice is NOT from an IP lawyer - so one could easily override my opinion - which in the final analysis is worth precisely what you're paying for it.
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Old June 11th, 2010, 03:25 AM   #3
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If this were not permissible then there could be no film reviews in newspapers, magazines, internet sites or podcasts.
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Old June 12th, 2010, 11:02 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nigel Barker View Post
If this were not permissible then there could be no film reviews in newspapers, magazines, internet sites or podcasts.
In US copyright law, there are specific exclusions for news, critial analysis, etc.

But I agree with Bill. Saying "Wow, I really loved Spinal Tap" is fine, but having two characters completely reenact "This one goes to eleven" may cause you some trouble.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Andrew McNeeley View Post
Like in Swordfish. At the beginning of the film John Travolta launches into a huge spiel about Al Pacino and "Dog Day Afternoon"
I don't know about this particular scene, but just because a major film does something does not mean you can do it in a small production. It's very possible that a large sum of money was paid for any rights that were needed for this scene.
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Old June 13th, 2010, 06:44 AM   #5
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I suspect you could get away with your characters' paraphrasing the scene to make a dramatic point within your scene, but not word for word nor the entire original scene.

I expect they paid to clear the extracts from "Dog Day Afternoon".

Again an entertainment lawyer would make things clear for you in your particular case.
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Old June 18th, 2010, 10:02 AM   #6
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U.S. copyright law makes specific allowances for fair use for the purposes of criticism and review. So discussing a movie should not pose a problem, so long as you are not replacing the market for the film you are discussing. But you definitely need to follow fair use guidelines to the letter.

The Centre for Social Media has put together guidelines for documentary makers when it comes to utilizing fair use in the United States. It has been endorsed and recognized by many major broadcasters, such as PBS, HBO and IFC. It doesn't replace legal advice entirely, but it certainly helps when planning a production:

http://www.centerforsocialmedia.org/blog/fair-use

The Documentary Organization of Canada also has a similar document for Fair Dealing laws in Canada:

http://docorg.ca/sites/docorg.ca/fil...-EN-v2-web.pdf

Once again, none of this stops you from BEING sued...but it will certainly help in your defence if you cover all your bases ahead of time.

Further to that, here is a good article from the International Documentary Association talking how the guidelines have been used by major documentaries over the last two years:

http://tinyurl.com/2bpkjep

Last edited by Bill Currie; June 18th, 2010 at 11:12 AM.
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Old June 22nd, 2010, 12:00 PM   #7
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Hi Guys,

Sorry I haven't responded but Ive been without internet for a bit due to a verizon issue. Friday can't get here soon enough!

Thanks for all the responses! I took the advice and contacted an experienced entertainment lawyer through lawguru. $50 got me this answer.

Question-
#1- Are we OK simply discussing movies? Just like two friends talking about their favorite movies on the weekends.

#2- Are we OK quoting specific lines from movies to make a point? For example while discussing a particular movie- "You remember when character x said ....? What I think the director meant was...."

#3- Are we OK inserting lines from movies in unrelated dialogue and then pointing out where they are from? For example character A might say something like "Do you feel lucky? Well, do ya? and Character B might say "Alright Clint Eastwood"

Lawyer Answer-
The legal answer to your question depends on whether you are shooting a completely scripted movie or a documentary.

1. This is likely ok regardless of whether you are shooting a scripted movie or documentary.

2 & 3. This is probably if you are shooting a documentary because you have what is called a fair use argument (it is copyright infringement but fair use is a defense where you are allowed to use other copyrighted work). If it is a scripted movie then probably not. It sounds like you are pulling from the famous movies to give your movie clout and that is copyright infringement without a defense.

Please know that the above are guidelines based on what you are telling me in your question. I cannot answer your questions absolutely because that would require reviewing the actual script and scene after it it shot. This is what we do when we are hired as production counsel on a film.
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Last edited by Pete Bauer; June 22nd, 2010 at 04:27 PM. Reason: profanity
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Old June 22nd, 2010, 02:20 PM   #8
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What he said pretty much jives with everything I've read. One well-known example involves the documentary "Mad Hot Ballroom". At one point during filming, while playing foosball, a boy shouted "Everybody dance now", a phrase from the song by C+C Music Factory. The filmmakers' lawyer said the line had to be cleared with the song's publisher, Warner Chappell. The price? $5,000. For three words.
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Old June 22nd, 2010, 03:49 PM   #9
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It looks like this specific piece of music is fiercely protected and I found many examples of it being removed from various sites - probably just one to avoid!
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Old June 22nd, 2010, 05:31 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Davis View Post
"Everybody dance now"...The price? $5,000. For three words.
I believe it. If the beat came with the license I think it might be worth it...but I bet that would be loads more.

It's kind of drag not to make it quite like I wanted but honestly its made me write some better stuff to replace it. Lemonade from lemons so to speak. :)

Thanks for the input all.
Andrew
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Old June 29th, 2010, 02:28 PM   #11
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In the same vain, what do ya' all think about this example from a documentary I'm working on:

Copyright Violation Or Not?

The real problem as I see it, if you're not a big company you can't even get your request for rights to be replied to, and if you do, you get a ridiculous cost like the one mentioned in a prior post in this thread.

Thank goodness this can be cut because it isn't important to the story...
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Old June 29th, 2010, 06:09 PM   #12
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Kevin,

This of course has not legal basis whatsoever but I think it is a very sad commentary of the state of our society where you would even have to worry about having that in your documentary.

We are coming to a point where people will be sued for copyright infringement for walking down the street singing a song because they do not have the proper Performance Rights.

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