Use of Copyrighted Materials (Long)

Sue Parks (
Mon, 18 Feb 2002 09:37:12 -0800 (PST)

I would greatly appreciate any feedback:

We have a graduate student from our Radio, Television & Film Department
wanting to do a "visual thesis" on mothers and daughters in film. She
plans to include several clips from feature films, documentaries,
television broadcasts, and print media. She plans to use the Fair Use
Guidelines for Educational Multimedia as a tool to help her determine
what she can use. She mentioned that a long-term goal would be to find a
distributor for her film and to try to enter it in various festivals. I
cautioned her that this would be an entirely different ball game
involving seeking clearance and permission for every clip she used. She
has started that process, and has quickly become frustrated.

The student borrowed a tape from our collection produced and
distributed by a fairly well known distributor. This particular title
has a similar format to her project in that it contains clips from
feature films and television broadcasts like "Pulp Fiction", "Rambo",
"Die Hard", "Raiders of the Lost Ark", "The Jerry Springer Show", and
"The Wizard of Oz", just to name a few. (In fact, I counted over 40
clips in the first half of the program.) She mentioned that she didn't
see a notice of copyright or a statement of permission to use these
clips and wondered how this distributor could legally use the material.
I viewed the tape in question along with others by this distributor and
also noticed the lack of copyright/permission. I encouraged our student
to e-mail the company to inquire about their policies regarding
copyright. Someone from the company replied:

"We've used copyrighted media on every production we've done and have
never asked permission. Since we are a non-profit organization and the
videos are for educational critique.. we're operating within the
guidelines and have never been threatened with a lawsuit . . " He goes
on to site an exception to that back in 1991.

He then writes, "We get the sense that no one wants to test the waters
with Fair Use.. but do you really think that some huge company is going
to threaten you?" While he stated that they were a non-profit
organization, they charge $275.00 for this tape and have one of those
annoying pricing structures charging lower prices for K-12 and higher
prices for Colleges/Universities. They have to be making a profit,

I was completely floored by his response. I felt that it undermined and
invalidated any progress we have made in encouraging our faculty and
students to lawfully use materials. Have we uncovered/exposed an
isolated problem; is this somewhat common; is there some legal loophole
that I am unaware of which allows this company to use these materials
without permission?



Sue Parks
Head, Media Library
University of North Texas