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Old January 24th, 2007, 09:05 PM   #1
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Promo Reel Legality

We've just created our promo reel from our 2006 footage. It contains a good deal of celebrities in about 3 minutes of it. All the footage was shot by us and is still owned by us. None of the celebs. have signed any releases. As I only can assume, I can only show this reel in private? OR could I post it on my site with a disclaimer of some sort? Sorry if wrong forum.
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Old January 25th, 2007, 03:30 PM   #2
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Generally speaking, all people own the rights to their image (ie - face). But this is only a general rule.

Specifically, if you're taking a picture of a person (say Micheal Jordan) in front of your shoe store, and then publish pictures indicating that Mr. Jordan loves your store, you would be subject to suit. This is because you've used his image w/o permission to make money.

But, if in the same senario, if you published pictures with a person's face in them, even a famous face, but the person's face is incidental to ad, technically you'd be in the clear. All this assumes they are in public - you can't take pics of a person where one would reasonably expect privacy...

Then why does MTV and other stations and shows blur faces of people on sidewalks? Well, to my knowlege, unless you're making money directly because of their image, it should be fine. There have been suits and this basic rule has been upheld. But that's the thing - there have been law suits about this, and there's no indication there won't be future law suits. So, most shows take a better safe then sorry attitude about "publication."

This issue is much more complicated when the person is famous (particularly if the person is very famous), because how do you prove the image wasn't an important to the ad or commercial? It's one thing if the famous person is just a face in a New York crowd; it's another when they're the only person in the image. There's lot's of wriggle room here, because it's fact specific, and that's where law suits start. A famous person has, compared to the average Joe, much more to lose in this sort of suit.

Your issue is somewhat different - you're, presummably, not using anyone's image to sell anything; they merely happen to be in the footage (please correct if wrong). Furthermore, you're not truly publishing the image to the general public, but merely giving it to, I'm guessing, no more than a hundred or so companies. If you put the footage on the web, it becomes a more complicated issue.

There is one other issue - For most civil cases, a plaintiff must be able to prove damages. From the facts you list, you are not exploiting anyone's image, or doing anything that would cause damages, so in a general sense you should be fine. But, again, publishing on the web potentially does open you up to a much wider liability.... As does the person's relative fame.

Also, your state may have stricter laws than the general common law rules I've laid out (think particularly California and New York).

It sounds like you have a pretty decent sized company, so you'd want to talk to a lawyer with your exact specifics.

But I hope this general advice helps you on your way (at least give you some things to ask your lawyer)...
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Old January 25th, 2007, 04:22 PM   #3
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Celebrities are often considered public figures and have limited right of privacy, so you might be OK if the footage was produced in a public setting.

In any case you need talk speak with an attorney with entertainment law experience to review the footage and advise you because almost every circumstance is unique with respect to these issues.
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Old January 25th, 2007, 05:35 PM   #4
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you state you own the clips .... did you tape the celebrities as part of a production ? or you went to a public event and they were there ?

if part of a production who has the releases ?

for a second lets say they were not celebrities just regular persons - would you still use them to promote your business? or is the main reason they are in the promo is because they are celebrities ?

"Celebrities are often considered public figures and have limited right of privacy"

they may have less rights then we do but i'm not so sure that includes using them to promote you or your business ....
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Old January 25th, 2007, 05:40 PM   #5
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Right to privacy, Right to PUBLICITY (the right to profit from your image, different from right to keep it private), copyrights to whatever it is you shot them in, LOTS of issues. You really need to ask your attorney.
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Old January 25th, 2007, 06:07 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Don Donatello
you state you own the clips .... did you tape the celebrities as part of a production ? or you went to a public event and they were there ?

if part of a production who has the releases ?

for a second lets say they were not celebrities just regular persons - would you still use them to promote your business? or is the main reason they are in the promo is because they are celebrities ?

"Celebrities are often considered public figures and have limited right of privacy"

they may have less rights then we do but i'm not so sure that includes using them to promote you or your business ....

I taped the celebs as part of a bigger production that seemed to die in litigation over distribution. So I own roughly 7 hours of footage from that show. I had no contract and have no releases. The event was public, at a local venue. If they were not celebs, I would've still used the footage, BUT the celebs make the footage and my company more credible when bidding for production jobs.
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Old January 26th, 2007, 10:49 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Peter Wiley
Celebrities are often considered public figures and have limited right of privacy, so you might be OK if the footage was produced in a public setting.

In any case you need talk speak with an attorney with entertainment law experience to review the footage and advise you because almost every circumstance is unique with respect to these issues.

Public figures have the same rights as "normals" do to their image in terms of third parties using their image for a commercial work (ie - not news). Indeed, because they are famous, they stand much more to "lose" if someone is making money from an unauthorized use of their image.

However, when a person is deemed "public," there is a different standard for that person suing for defamation of character (they must prove malice in addition to other elements). It's a totally different issue then publicity (unless the work also defamed the person).

When a pic is taken where a person would normally expect privacy, this adds another layer of protection to the person whose pic was taken, regardless of what the pic's use was for - not applicable in your case apparently.

I agree with those who have said you should speak to an attorney - it is a complicated issue that is very fact specific. Any law I've mentioned is only the basic rule of thumb - each state's law might vary.

So go see a lawyer! Shouldn't be an outrageous fee, and it sounds like you have some neat footage. Good luck and let us know what you do.
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Old January 26th, 2007, 11:41 AM   #8
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Thanks for the thoughts and comments y'all. I going to just only show the footage to potential clients and avoid making the footage available to everyone. I have a very limited funds and would rather use that to produce.
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Old January 26th, 2007, 03:09 PM   #9
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The leading case for all this type of this came from Bela Lugosi's suit against Universal for their using Bela's face on all the Dracula related merchandise they sold. Here's a link to the case:

Full cite: Lugosi v. Universal Pictures, 25 C3d 813 (Dec. 3, 1979); hyperlink to opinion: http://online.ceb.com/CalCases/C3/25C3d813.htm

The estate of Elvis also has a few famous, land-mark cases in this area. Have fun.
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