Copyright Question: Can I use footage of TV shows from youtube that I shoot second-hand?

by anthony

Question: Can I use footage from youtube of TV shows that I'm filming second-hand (i.e: filming my computer screen)? I should note that I plan on re-filming my screen in a dramatically experimental way by distorting the figures on screen. Also I may show the youtube watch page itself as another option.

Desktop Documentaries:

It's a bit difficult to answer your question without knowing the context of your project and the end use of your documentary.

Generally speaking, copyright law requires that you get permission from the owner of ANY footage that you use that was created by someone else, even if you are distorting that footage. However, if you are distorting the footage so completely that it is beyond recognition of its original use, you may be okay. Are you using sound too? Again, that would be copyrighted.

The best rule of thumb in journalism is this: "If in doubt, leave it out."

There is one caveat to the copyright laws and that's something called Fair Use Laws. Fair use means that under some circumstances, such as for commentary or criticism, filmmakers can "rip" footage from a DVD/internet and use it in their films without permission from the owner. Be very careful with this rule! Copyright infringement is very serious and in most cases you'll still need permission from the copyright owner.

Learn About Copyright Issues for Filmmakers

Disclaimer: The above statements are my opinion as a filmmaker and should not in any way be considered legal advice.

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