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Tony Hall December 13th, 2004 11:24 PM

Copyright law
 
There are a couple of things that I've wondered about for a while, but have never asked anyone. It's always seemed like there were some loopholes in copyright laws that allow people to use some things if they do it a certain way. This may sound completely idiotic, but you can tell me if I'm way off or not.

First, is there a time limit for how much of a song you can put in something without paying the artist for it? I've always heard references in TV shows and stuff like "that's all we can play of that song or we'll have to pay royalties".

Also, I've noticed in situations where someone is unlikely able to obtain the rights for something, they'll show it on a television and film the whole TV (or just the screen). Is it legal to film a TV screen if you want to include a clip of a TV show or a movie without paying? I've noticed competing cable news organizations show footage of other networks in this manner while criticizing them.

I'm not doing anything commercial right now anyway, so it doesn't matter. I'd just like to know.

Kaleem Maxwell December 13th, 2004 11:55 PM

Well, those two particular things are in the grey area. Consider this, if a work you created isn't yours then you will need to ask the owner before you use it.

The so called loopholes you may be referring to are "Parody" where you use it for satire (A la Saturday Night Live, Mad, etc) and Fair Use.

For the best advice you should consult a lawyer who's experienced in this sort of thing.

Er... filming a TV screen would be about the same thing as Filming a Film Screen in a Cinema (or taping a show). It's copying a work and you need permission to do it commercially. Though In some cases, you could do like the news and say "Courtesy: Company X" if you're using it for info (This may fall under Fair Use) but I'm not well versed on the laws and common practices on that.

Tony Hall December 14th, 2004 12:19 AM

Well, I guess what I'm getting at (as far as filming a TV screen goes) is I think it should be possible for someone to show someone's work that wouldn't necessarily want it shown.

For instance, what about political documentaries like "Outfoxed" in which they are showing clips of Fox News as examples of how right wing they are. There's no way Fox gave them permission to do that. So, they must have found a legal way to do so.

In Fahrenheit 911, Moore shows clips of cable stations in a negative light and even shows a full length Army commercial. Do you really think the Army would give Michael Moore permission to use an army commercial for anything? No, I don't think so. It does look kind of grainy too, as if it was taped from television or filmed from a TV screen.

Chris Hurd December 14th, 2004 12:21 AM

Some of these areas are not so gray. See our five-part article by Douglas Spotted Eagle, Copyright: A seemingly Shifting Target, which answers many common questions about copyright law.

Tony Hall December 14th, 2004 02:35 AM

Is Douglas Spotted Eagle an attorney? I didn't read the whole article, but it seems somewhat biased.

There are people legally using other people's creations to help make their point... sometimes in situations that they could never get permission. Such as Fahrenheit 911's use of Fox News footage and Army commercials. So, how do they do it?

The copyright article is good if you want a good scare, but is there any place short of a lawyers office that you can find out how to obtain television footage legally?

Michael Bernstein December 14th, 2004 08:04 AM

Shooting a video screen does not change the copyright status of a work you reproduce. You can't get away with it just because it's grainy, shot off a TV, recorded with a cheap microphone, or whatever.

You don't need permission to reproduce something under the terms of the "Fair Use" doctrine, which says that you may quote from a work in order to comment upon it. In writing a book, for example, you can quote Arnold Schwarzenegger's line in Terminator 2, "Hasta la vista, baby!" without violating copyright; reproducing the entire script, however, would get you in trouble. For everything in between, ask a lawyer.

I'll bet that in the case of OutFoxed and Farenheit 9/11, the producers wanted that grainy look in the clips from Fox News.

(Either that, or they were legally allowed to make excerpts, but Fox or other holders wouldn't give them high-quality clips.)

Michael

Richard Alvarez December 14th, 2004 09:22 AM

As you correctly surmised in your original posts, there are ways to show footage that people might not "want" you to use. Of course, a lot of people might "want" or "Not want" different things... that the law allows or doesn't allow.

This is why it is important to consult an attorney. Especially if you don't want to read long boring citations of case laws.

Fair use, Satire, Parody, Music "Sampling","news" and "Documentaries" are all areas that have some variations to them. In addition to copyright, you also must deal with "right to privacy" and "right to publicity" issues.

Michel Moores' use of Fox footage, The Swift Boat peoples use of John Kerry's image... these things are carefully vetted by attorneys... usually groups of attorneys before going forward.

There are , I think two attorneys who regularly post to this board. Paul Tauger and someone else whose name escapes me at the moment.

Paul Tauger December 14th, 2004 01:06 PM

Re: Copyright law
 
Quote:

Originally posted by Tony Hall : There are a couple of things that I've wondered about for a while, but have never asked anyone. It's always seemed like there were some loopholes in copyright laws that allow people to use some things if they do it a certain way. This may sound completely idiotic, but you can tell me if I'm way off or not.

First, is there a time limit for how much of a song you can put in something without paying the artist for it? I've always heard references in TV shows and stuff like "that's all we can play of that song or we'll have to pay royalties".
No. There is no magic time limit, nor is there a magic number of notes or bars. One of the tests for fair use (which is a defense to infringement) is the substantiality of the amount taken, but there is no magic formula.

Quote:

Also, I've noticed in situations where someone is unlikely able to obtain the rights for something, they'll show it on a television and film the whole TV (or just the screen). Is it legal to film a TV screen if you want to include a clip of a TV show or a movie without paying? I've noticed competing cable news organizations show footage of other networks in this manner while criticizing them.
No, it is not a defense to infringement (either copyright or trademark) to film a TV screen. Either the producer obtained rights, or the particular use was one that would not result in infringement liability.

Quote:

I'm not doing anything commercial right now anyway, so it doesn't matter. I'd just like to know.
Whether or not a specific use is commercial is irrelevant to whether that use infringes.

Quote:

For instance, what about political documentaries like "Outfoxed" in which they are showing clips of Fox News as examples of how right wing they are. There's no way Fox gave them permission to do that. So, they must have found a legal way to do so.
Social commentary usually supports a finding of fair use.

Quote:

Is Douglas Spotted Eagle an attorney? I didn't read the whole article, but it seems somewhat biased.
He's not, but the article is, on the whole, quite good (I have a couple of minor technical quibbles with parts of it). I am an intellectual property attorney.

John Britt December 14th, 2004 01:49 PM

Re: Re: Copyright law
 
<<<-- Originally posted by Paul Tauger : No. There is no magic time limit, nor is there a magic number of notes or bars. One of the tests for fair use (which is a defense to infringement) is the substantiality of the amount taken, but there is no magic formula.-->>>


Interesting. Way back in high school I took TV Production -- we did a daily/semi-daily newscast, the video yearbook, and other wedgie-inducing things. The teacher specifically taught us that we could use up to 30 seconds of any song before it would be considering infringement. I remember this well because the video yearbook was full of 30 second snippets of popular music (although we also had a needle-drop/sound-alike music library, his instructions were specifically regarding popular music). Not to mention that the video yearbook was sold for money... Of course, I trust Paul more than I trust my high school video production instructor, but I wonder why he had it wrong?

Paul Tauger December 14th, 2004 01:51 PM

Quote:

Interesting. Way back in high school I took TV Production -- we did a daily/semi-daily newscast, the video yearbook, and other wedgie-inducing things. The teacher specifically taught us that we could use up to 30 seconds of any song before it would be considering infringement. I remember this well because the video yearbook was full of 30 second snippets of popular music (although we also had a needle-drop/sound-alike music library, his instructions were specifically regarding popular music). Not to mention that the video yearbook was sold for money... Of course, I trust Paul more than I trust my high school video production instructor, but I wonder why he had it wrong?
He had it completely wrong. Perhaps he was thinking about BMI/ASCAP logging, which may have a "minimum amount of play to trigger logging" requirement.

John Britt December 14th, 2004 02:21 PM

Not to continue off-track here, but I really hadn't even thought about this in years... Did the school put itself in a position where it could have been sued? There were tons of 30 second snippets in that yearbook...

Tony Hall December 14th, 2004 02:43 PM

Let's also remember that just because someone CAN sue someone doesn't make it likely. You are probably way more likely to be sued for something you do on the job or for something else, like a business transaction, than being sued by the music industry.

The music industry isn't going to sue a highschool, a church, or a kid making a tape for his grandparents. You think that suing kids might be bad publicity... try suing a church... not in this country... not unless you've been molested. I doubt they'd even mess with a wedding videographer... they might send you a letter to scare you, but they're not going to spend a bunch of money on their big expensive lawyers to sue a wedding videographer for a few bucks.

The only time they sue small fries is to scare large amounts of people.

John Britt December 14th, 2004 02:53 PM

<<<-- Originally posted by Tony Hall :

The music industry isn't going to sue a highschool, a church, or a kid making a tape for his grandparents. You think that suing kids might be bad publicity... try suing a church... not in this country -->>>

First of all, considering the mind-boggling strongarming the RIAA has done to music downloaders, I have no doubt that they'll sue anyone, anywhere, for anything they can.

Second, I believe Paul Tauger has a story, in fact, about a church being sued for copyright infringement... Paul, am I correct?

John Britt December 14th, 2004 02:55 PM

Found it myself:
http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/showthrea...sued+copyright


"The leader of a church choir was sued for infringement when he made 20 copies of a copyright-protected hymn."

also,

"Andrew Lloyd Weber sued a high school in New Jersey for staging an unauthorized production of Jesus Christ Superstar."

Tony Hall December 14th, 2004 03:11 PM

Ok, I didn't say it was impossible... just very unlikely. Who was it that sued the church? And who won these lawsuits... you also can't just assume that everytime a big company sues someone that they're going to win.


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