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Techniques for Independent Production
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Old March 6th, 2005, 09:53 AM   #1
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copyright

to what extent does copyright apply to objects? do you need to secure authorisation to use, for example, a table, a lamp, a cushion, a soft toy, clothes, TVs - any of the standard, non-trademarked/non-logo'd objects that surround us? i stress that i don't mean identifiable trademarked objects or merchandise, just generic, unbranded goods.

my confusion comes from the fact that you cannot use, say, a nike t-shirt or a can of coke because they are clearly copyrighted, but surely the law applies to all manufactured objects (say, an ikea table, or a plain t-shirt) as they must have been designed by someone somewhere, and therefore subject to copyright.

is it just a matter of the logo/trademark being visible?
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Old March 6th, 2005, 10:15 AM   #2
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I'm NO lawyer and most sadly there are LOTS of grey areas in both the letter of laws involving copyrights or trademarks, and in peoples' understandings (including me) of those laws. As someone always says with these kind of questions -- so I'll get it out of the way early -- if you're in doubt, go with the opinion of a good attorney that you've hired rather than internet speculation or opinion. There.

Now, my limited impression from what I've read around here is that purely incidental appearance of a logo or other trademark is generally thought to be "defensible" and therefore sometimes done...presumably without getting sued. But that is treading along the edges of some dangerous territory so obviously anything more than a clearly incidental appearance starts ratcheting up your risk.

I wouldn't guess that imaging generic products as part of storyline is a concern -- unless it is so obviously tied to the reputation of a company (and I guess therefore not so "generic") as to be like a trademark in that it clearly is representing the company in your production. In other words, if your story has two idiots cruising around in their car, it probably is no big deal if the viewer incidentally can figure out that their car is a Chevy. On the other hand, if your storyline is that they are idiots BECAUSE they are driving a Chevy... ;-)

Let's see what more learned people have to say.
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Old March 6th, 2005, 10:45 AM   #3
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thanks.

i'm not interested in showing any logos or trademarked goods so this is not an issue.

personally, i don't see that it's even possible to get authorisation for every single item you have in your movie, unless you're just filming a blank wall (maybe even then you have to get permission from the manufacturer's of brick and paint ;-) ). if it were the case, filmmakers would spend more time getting clearance than making the damn movie.
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Old March 6th, 2005, 10:49 AM   #4
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<<<-- Originally posted by Pete Bauer : Now, my limited impression from what I've read around here is that purely incidental appearance of a logo or other trademark is generally thought to be "defensible" and therefore sometimes done...presumably without getting sued. -->>>

this is also my understanding. but i wonder how morgan spurlock fared with the lawyers over 'supersize me'. i mean, there was no challenge as far as i know from mcdonalds regarding the use of copyrighted materials, whatever other objections they had. anyway, like i say, i'm not interested in trademarked goods in this post.
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Old March 6th, 2005, 11:40 AM   #5
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There are variations in the laws regarding fair use, and "newsworthy" excepts that can apply to documentary footage.

"Trade Dress" is the area of law, which applies to such designs as the distinctive shape of the coca-cola bottle, and the distinctive pink color of owens corning fiberglass.
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