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-   -   Licensing Famous Footage (https://www.dvinfo.net/forum/taking-care-business/105030-licensing-famous-footage.html)

Phil Anderson October 5th, 2007 02:46 AM

Licensing Famous Footage
I'm hoping to put together a video and maybe DVD that looks at film history (at least part of it) and was wondering what the process is for licensing famous footage. I don't mean stock footage. As an example, I'd like to use a minute or so from Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo, and a few moments from Jaws.

Please, no replies on how to copy footage off of DVDs and such. I'm talking about legally licensing it. I know you see stuff like this all the time on You Tube and such where copyright laws are ignored, and I am all for technology and progress into the future, but I'd like to be as legit as possible here.

Daniel Ross October 5th, 2007 04:26 PM

You might get lucky and be able to use it as informational material.
If this is an educational project, you'd have a better chance as well.

If not, I'd assume there are two options:
1. Get a lawyer and have them contact the companies.
2. Contact the companies yourself.
Or, 3. Ask a lawyer how to best do so.

There's no real way around it except contacting the legal dept. of the production/distribution companies.

Ervin Farkas October 8th, 2007 10:56 AM

The studios will be more than likely grant you free use of their video in the manner you described - it's free publicity for them. I have a musician friend who recently organized a film music concert with his large brass ensamble - all he had to do is ask the studios, he got the green light to project parts of the movie on a large screen above the orchestra while the music was being played. There were both older movies, cartoons, and big budget recent movies like the Lord of the Rings and Pirates of the Caribbean.

I would suggest simply contact the studios licensing department - it might be a lot more simple than you expect it to be, but it has to be in writing.

Peter Wiley October 8th, 2007 02:12 PM

Clearing film clips is often done for you by firms that specialize in the process. See:


Not only do you have to get clearance from the owners of the film rights, you have to get clearance from the actors or their estates as well . . . at at least SAG scale if the actors were working under SAG contracts . . . and also possibly writers, directors and others.

Greg Quinn October 9th, 2007 09:56 AM


Originally Posted by Phil Anderson (Post 754652)
I'm hoping to put together a video ... As an example, I'd like to use a minute or so from Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo, and a few moments from Jaws.

In a word, forget it unless you have a very well budgeted project. Studios are now tending to license footage for documentary use as if you were licensing it for a narrative feature, and charging accordingly. You're looking at paying probably an absolute minimum of around $10k/clip if you are lucky (and more than that if you use a clearing house for their services) for maybe three years use. Licensing for such a documentary would be a nightmare, since the studios won't license in perpetuity unless you paid the earth, so we're talking about probably 3 year licensing, after which you have to pay the studios all over again. You'd end up in a situation like the movie "eyes on the prize" which went offline after a few years because the producers couldn't afford to relicense content (they got a grant and made it available again). The guys that you are talking with in these departments are accountants and lawyers, and they're interested in the bottom line. If you personally know a studio head, then you probably have a lower cost in (but I doubt it).

Your first amendment rights mean that you probably won't have to pay estates for use of footage containing images of deceased actors in a legitimate documentary context - no one does that. I wouldn't like to try and get away with that for an Elvis documentary, but there you go.

If I were going to attempt to do this, I would make the documentary that you would like to see made (i.e. do precisely what you said you don't want to do and rip DVD's into Final Cut or whatever your NLE of choice is), and then when you think you have what you think is the documentary of the century, contact the studios to cost such a project and then try to privately raise funding based on a roughcut. Of course, if you even think of distributing the roughcut without licensing, try to get into the witness protection program so that the studios won't track you down (they will though...).

Peter Wiley October 9th, 2007 12:32 PM

Greg is on point.

Take a look a programs on the Biography channel. Only very rarely do they have, if the subject is an actor or other entertainer, much in the way of clips from movies . . . for just the reasons Greg points out.

Daniel Ross October 9th, 2007 12:45 PM

This is business, not play, and groups with more resources than you own the footage; in order for it to be worth their cooperation, it would probably not be worth your cost.

Regardless of what would be nice or what should be free, etc., that's just how it works.

However, contact the companies. You could always get lucky.

Paul Tauger October 9th, 2007 04:16 PM

Peter has it exactly right. There are clip clearance companies that specialize in this kind of work (I went to law school with a woman who ran one but, sadly, I don't recall her name at the moment).

Phil Anderson October 9th, 2007 11:27 PM

Thanks for the very informative link, Peter. Pretty much answered all of my questions.

Betsy Moore February 2nd, 2009 11:42 PM

There was an article in I think the LA times a couple years ago about some film makers fighting the movie studios re: fair use, that the law had been interpreted so narrowly by the studios as to make it meaningless. So some doc filmmakers do fight back and the final results are yet to be determined.

Richard Alvarez February 3rd, 2009 11:29 AM

Yep, independant filmmakers are always looking for someone to be the 'point of the spear' and fight back against the industry.

All it takes is time, money, determination, a lawyer and more time, money and determination.

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