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Old April 14th, 2006, 08:37 PM   #1
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COPYRIGHT arrgghh!

Hi,

Ive just made a short film (my first, but it has come out quite well and Id like to enter it in some small festivals). Iv been through hell trying to tackle music copyright (so expensive!), but now Im worried Ive hit another copyright barrier. I realised that the fact that I have a TV in my film in probably going to be an issue. There are a few scenes where the camera pans across the scene and a TV can be seen on (in one shot a sitcom is playing, another time it is tennis, another time it is Doctor Phil, and also the video game Crash Banidcoot). The shots are generally quick (u see the TV for 1-3 sec or so). Unfortunately I didnt even think about this being copyright when I filmed, but now Im worried - have I breached copyright? And is there anything I can do apart from removing the shots or getting permission (I dont want to imagine what itd be like trying to get permission to use Dr Phil)?

Thanks very much to anyone who can shed light on this issue,

Josef
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Old April 14th, 2006, 08:50 PM   #2
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btw, in case it is relevant, Im from Australia
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Old April 14th, 2006, 08:59 PM   #3
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I don't think they'll care on the small pan segments, Charlies Angels 2 had Final Fantasy 8 in it, but they focused on it. A pan is fair I think but I don't know much about copyrights. Music copyrights, yeah, those are the tough ones, remember the Rocky cell phone ring story? Yeah, good luck man. All I can recommend is find an entertainment lawyer or one trained in entertainment law as well. That's all you can do if you haven't done so already. =(
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Old April 14th, 2006, 09:35 PM   #4
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In the U.S. it would depend on what kind of film yours is and how how much what you see and hear on the TV is central to the action/story. If a documentary you might have a fair use defense, if your film is a commercial narrative the issue would be different.

Take a look at: http://www.centerforsocialmedia.org/fairuse.htm

Of course if you live in Austrialia it's a whole different legal system with different laws, rules, and precendents.

Last edited by Peter Wiley; April 15th, 2006 at 09:31 AM.
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Old April 15th, 2006, 02:01 PM   #5
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Incidental reproduction (which is the applicable doctrine) law in the U.S. is unsettled and contradictory. Note, too, that you also need to be concerned about right of publicity laws (which vary from state to state) and trademark infringement. I can't give you legal advice because you're not my client. I can suggest that a solution might be a pinned track matte with a little gaussian blur. ;)
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Old April 15th, 2006, 06:35 PM   #6
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If you have any recent version of After Effects Pro, you can fairly easily use Motion Tracking to composite some original footage in place of what is currently on the TV screens, then you have no worries.
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Old April 16th, 2006, 12:54 AM   #7
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yeh thanks everyone. I was thinking about that blurring idea...I reckon this copyright situation is just so stupid..I mean what's showing on the TV has NOTHING to do with the film, it doesnt defame or invade privacy..its just there because TV is a part of everyones life, just like books or clothes or anything. The tiny glimpes of the shows on the TV is no different IMO than anyone going over and flicking on their TV set. And apart from all that..Im sure no one cares anyway!


Aaarrrrgggghhh! :)
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Old April 16th, 2006, 06:57 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Josef Heks
yeh thanks everyone. I was thinking about that blurring idea...I reckon this copyright situation is just so stupid..I mean what's showing on the TV has NOTHING to do with the film, it doesnt defame or invade privacy..its just there because TV is a part of everyones life, just like books or clothes or anything. The tiny glimpes of the shows on the TV is no different IMO than anyone going over and flicking on their TV set. And apart from all that..Im sure no one cares anyway!


Aaarrrrgggghhh! :)
Take a look at this site www.law.duke.edu/cspd and especially www.law.duke.edu/cspd/comics

There's a lot of good information there about what is and what isn't public domain and what might snag you up.

And you'll find you're wrong that no one cares - they care every day to the tune of very big bucks and wonderful films languishing on the shelf because of lack of clearances.

A legal system that serves corporate profit over the common good needs to be replaced.
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Old April 16th, 2006, 07:21 AM   #9
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"Corporate profit over the common good".... interesting point of view.

I for one have been involved in copyright litigation over theft of my own work, and am VERY grateful for the copyright laws.

They protect the little guy as well as the big corporations. Like policemen, you're generally glad to have them around when you need, them... and hate to see them when you're doing something wrong.

But then again, I'm married to a copyright attorney. And I see little guys and big guys make the same mistakes, and get sued for big bucks... BY little guys and big guys.

I'm sure Paul Tauger, our resident copyright/trademark attorney will concur.
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Old April 16th, 2006, 11:59 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by Richard Alvarez
"Corporate profit over the common good".... interesting point of view.

I for one have been involved in copyright litigation over theft of my own work, and am VERY grateful for the copyright laws.

They protect the little guy as well as the big corporations. Like policemen, you're generally glad to have them around when you need, them... and hate to see them when you're doing something wrong.

But then again, I'm married to a copyright attorney. And I see little guys and big guys make the same mistakes, and get sued for big bucks... BY little guys and big guys.

I'm sure Paul Tauger, our resident copyright/trademark attorney will concur.
In general I would agree. But when an image or logo is visible in the background of a shot, purely by coincidence, and the film is pulled because either clearance can't be obtained or the cost of defending against threats of infringment are too high even if the threats would ultimately prove to have no merit, then the law has become the master rather than the servant.

In one example cited on the Duke site, a documentary on opera happened to include a shot of stagehands lounging backstage during a performance. Visible in the background for 4 seconds was a TV set playing an episode of "The Simpsons." Fox demanded $10,000 for clearance or removal of the shot. And because of the costs of litigation, all too often such cases are not decided on their ethical merits but rather on who can afford the slickest legal gunfighter. IMHO that is clearly corporate greed prevailing over the common good. I know if I were that filmmaker, no legal counsel I could ever hire could withstand the clout of the Fox network legal department, a situation that means that "justice" is simply another product in the market for sale to the highest bidder. I have to question the personal ethics of the attornys who would use such a tactic to prevail for their deep-pockets clients. I must confess it sometimes seems the legal profession has placed winning by any method possible to be their paramount professional virtue, much more important than working for justice and equity. Or perhaps they feel that justice is whatever the person writing the checks says it is. That cannot be the foundation of an honorable and enduring society.

The Duke site I referenced also has a discussion of the withdrawal from circulation of the Martin Luther King biography "Eyes on the Prize" because of rights renewal issues. Well worth looking at.
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Old April 16th, 2006, 12:19 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by Steve House
That cannot be the foundation of an enduring society.
It's the foundation of an enduring sitcom.

Honestly I don't see how a few seconds of The Simpsons benefits the common good. You need an entire episode for that.

I'm a huge fan of the show, have been since its very beginning, but it is intellectual property and Fox has every right to protect and control it. And I don't buy into the "corporate greed" argument either. It's redundant. A corporation exists to make a profit. That's what corporations are all about.

However I'll concede that in the documentary situation you site, there *should* be an affordable license structure in place to cover these kinds of instances. Obviously Fox felt that $10,000 was affordable... to them, maybe, but I think it's a little stringent for four seconds. Affordability is a relative term, after all.

Ultimately the best advice for the original poster has already been provided by Paul and Pete... After Effects is your friend. Get that blur goin'!
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Old April 16th, 2006, 12:28 PM   #12
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I think it should depend on the use. If you're shooting a wedding video or a theatrical drama and use "I'm In the Mood for Love" as part of the soundtrack, by all means it needs clearance and licensing and I'm in 100% agreement with that. But if you're shooting a documentary on street musicians and shoot a buskar playing it on his violin in the subway station, that should be legitmate fair use. Or not even that blatant an example of the law run amok - as it is now, if you were shooting a documentary on the SF cable cars and someone happens to walk through your scene absent-mindedly whistling it, you're going to need clearance, edit the soundtrack, or pull the shot.
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Old April 16th, 2006, 08:28 PM   #13
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With all due respect to Chris and all the legal opinions displayed in this thread, I have to side with Steve House on this one. We are living in a society dominated by corporate greed (which is not the same as making a profit) and a legal system out of control. I can see no moral or legal justification for forbidding the photographing or filming of any corporate logo visible from a public place. Where would we be if Walker Evans, Robert Frank, or Henri Cartier Bresson were out shooting on the streets today?
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Old April 16th, 2006, 09:06 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by Francois Camoin
I can see no moral or legal justification for forbidding the photographing or filming of any corporate logo visible from a public place. Where would we be if Walker Evans, Robert Frank, or Henri Cartier Bresson were out shooting on the streets today?
There is no legal prohibition from using corporate logos unless there is a likelihood of consumer confusion as to source, sponsorship or affiliation. If not present (and the use doesn't dilute or tarnish the logo), then it is perfectly legal to include it in a film.
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Old April 17th, 2006, 01:09 AM   #15
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Take that Simpsons example...I see no logical reason why those film makers need permission to use that.
A) It doesnt affect the documentary, and it doesnt add anything to it. Its not as if it has used one of the Simpsons jokes to get a laugh, or to make a point.
B) It doesnt give the show a bad name, or in any way cast negative views about it. (if anything, its a bit of free advertising)
C) Everyone knows the Simpsons, and has seen the Simpsons, so its not like its revealing somthing Fox doesnt want ppl to know about.

Ultimately, I dont see how the filmmakers using such a short, irrelevant shot of the Simpsons affects Fox in any adverse way. And dont get me wrong - if the filmmakers where exploiting the shot to make a point or joke then I agree that filmmakers should need permission, because they are ultimately stealing someone elses work. But because the Simpsons just happens to be on the TV the opera ppl were watching, and is just a tiny part of the big picture, I think its very unfair.
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