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Copyright Question - Acting Reels


annie

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I have an official site for an actor on my site. A while ago I made some short video clips from one of his productions. Two clips, about 2 megabyte each. Very tightly edited, focusing only on him. This is an old production, that many have seen but few have on tape.

 

I use it as an acting demo reel, and for the fans.

 

Question is:

 

Since he doesn't technically own the copyright, but it's generally accepted in Hollywood that the actors show their own work like this, can I put these on the site? They are not currently on there, because I haven't had the bandwidth for it in the past.

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The actor may not own the copyright to the production the studio probably does. Most copyrights include the statement that it may not be copied in whole or part without permission. I believe you should contact the studio that made the production for permission.

 

I am not a copyright lawyer though so take it with a grain of salt.

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Considering this one was produced by MGM in the late Seventies, I doubt they'd even answer a request for permission.

 

Personally, I think a good solution would be to quietly put it online, without any fanfare (ie without saying anything to the fans, causing a download surge), then if there's a problem, immediately removing it.

 

Does that sound OK to TCH?

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No

 

TotalChoice Hosting's services may only be used for lawful purposes. Transmission, distribution, or storage of any information, data or material in violation of United States or state regulation or law, or by the common law, is prohibited. This includes, but is not limited to, material protected by copyright, trademark, trade secret, or any other statute.

 

Until you can prove 100% that this material is exempt from copyright laws or you have permission from MGM it is prohibited.

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With that enterpretation of those rules, that means actors can't have sites on TCH. Which also means a reseller account on TCH would be useless to me.

 

They routinely use material they don't own the copyright to.

 

The thing is, in the biz, there are certain rules. I don't know if they're written down anywhere.

 

Actors use (sparingly) screen captures from their own roles. As far as I know, they don't own the COPYRIGHT of the work in question (I assume that lies with the production company or distributor), but they have a right to display their own work product, I guess you'd say.

 

Any artist normally has the right to display (as self promotion) what they've done, even if the copyright has been sold to someone else.

 

In other words, this question isn't at all as clear as you say.

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Edit: Basically, if you do not own the copyright yourself or have express permission from the copyright holder to use the file then you may not have it on your site.

 

Unfortunately we can not be flexible on this rule.

Edited by TCH-Rob
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I'll check this question further, when I can get hold of someone who knows this area well enough. I think I know just who to ask. Should probably have gone there first anyway.

 

I'll give you an example from my field, though: A photographer who has sold the copyrights to the client for a particular job, still has the rights to display the resulting photos as self promotion. And that's even though the photographer does not own the copyright. Thought I'd let you know. Copyright law and practice isn't as easy as you might think.

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I saw that.

 

But that's only part of the picture.

 

A friend was in an MGM movie. There were lots of publicity photos from that movie on various websites. They were available to use, for publicity purposes. I could put those photos on my website, and it would be fine. In fact, I probably SHOULD put one of those on the site, I just haven't thought about it. It would promote the DVD, and my site is promotional in nature. So, I'd be within the scope of intended use of those photos.

 

There are also stills given to the actors on different movies. Some are private, others are for publicity for the actor. Including their websites.

 

That said, on some movies the general rule is that the actors are not allowed to use those photos in public until after the movie has premiered (some directors make them sign confidentiality agreements, because they don't want any specifics about the movie to make it into the press until the premiere). But after that they put the photos on their site. I could give you lots of examples of that.

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The quote Dick pasted in covers both stills and video. Stills=photos.

 

I understand your position that you don't want to be held liable. And in 99 % of the cases, a clip from a feature film on a website would be in breach of copyright.

 

I just wanted to point out to you guys that there are grey areas.

 

Those particular clips would not bring any lawsuits down on you, they're far too old and insignificant. But in another situation, with a non-official site and a clip from a new and hot movie, it could bring down the legal machinery on a TCH site. So I do understand why you have the general rule.

 

I just ask that you understand that copyright is a little more complicated than it's held out to be.

 

And I will not put those clips on the site until I've figured out the legalities involved, if it all.

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I just ask that you understand that copyright is a little more complicated than it's held out to be.

Annie, I can sympathise with your situation - you want to do a great service to the actors and fans and "everyone's doing it" and it may even not bring a lawsuit.

 

Unfortunately, it's not about whether TCH gets sued - it's about whether they can be sued and whether it is legal or not. Two years ago I would have thought that a couple dozen music files on a public FTP site wouldn't cause any trouble but it would have been illegal - period with no room for grey - and we see today that the most unlikely folks are getting sued by RIAA.

 

I truly hope you can find clarification in your favor on this as it would be a good thing for the site, the actors and the fans and I wish you all the best in your search for that release.

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Your driving down a street, the street is clearly marked with 45MPH speed limit signs and your speeding down that street at 70MPH. You make it home safe and sound, the car is parked in the garage and the keys are on the kitchen counter.

You did not get caught speeding, so did you break any laws? Of course you did, you just did not get caught.

 

If no one is around and a tree falls in the jungle, does it really make a noise? Who knows. Reality would tell us, yes that tree made a noise when it was cut down, but how do we know, we were not there to here it.

 

Your neighbor is out of town for the month of June, and you decide to siphon water from their outside water spigot for the next 30 days. The day before they show back from vacation, you disconnect your hose. Few days later your water bill shows up and WOW you saved $190 in water for the month. Next day your neighbor's water bill arrives and it appears they were overcharged for water whilst they were on vacation. You figure, hey its just water. Did you break any laws? Yep, you just did not get caught.

 

I have two points. Firstly, if you break the rules and don't get caught you have still broken the rules. Secondly and I want to be candid here, sometimes its best to simply not open the book of rules. If Annie would have hosted the content without posting this question of copy law in the opens forums, even if the content would have been in the gray area, we would have simply issued to her a demand of removal. However, now that we are informed that she intends to host content that is, at best, questionable, we are forced to take protect the Interest of TCH.

Now that's not a open invite to host things that are illegal. I am just stating the hard cold facts.

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Interesting.

 

What Bill says brings home what I was thinking about as I read the preceding posts: Sometimes it is simply best to keep one's mouth closed.

 

Specifically, this reminds me of four years ago, when we moved into our current apartment. We had a 20-gallon aquarium in our previous home, and hoped to bring it along--and didn't think that was an unreasonable hope. However, there was a clause in the lease about "water-filled furniture," so, to be safe, we asked management whether it applied to aquaria. We were told to send a formal request to the owner and did so.

 

Several weeks later, we were informed that we were not allowed to keep more than a one-gallon container of water in our apartment! Our 20-gallon aquarium, of course, was completely out of the question, so it and all the money and time we'd invested in it became a total loss.

 

Subsequently, in our perambulations of the complex, we discovered that, among other things, there was an apartment right next to the management office containing a 55-gallon aquarium that it is absolutely impossible not to see from the office window.

 

So, let's review. We could have remained silent about the aquarium, in which case it would be quietly bubbling away in our living room. Instead, we tried to do the right thing, and paid the penalty. Apparently Mark Twain (or whoever said it if he didn't) was right: No good deed goes unpunished.

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You're saying this is illegal, yet my point the whole time is that I don't think it is.

 

And Bill, I did say I wouldn't do it unless I could figure out the legalities. Those clips have never been hosted under my domain name.

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A friend found something interesting:

 

http://www.andromedatv.com/community/fanpolicy.html

 

Copyright is handled very differently by the entertainment industry depending on the situation.

 

I heard about the cease and desist machinery when Batman & Robin came out. They were going after anyone who did anything, with the exception of MovieTome, who put up the publicity photos given to journalists. That's extreme, but it does happen.

 

On the other hand, I've been approached by publicity for some films and ASKED to put up a gallery of the publicity photos. They had them up on their own site, but in big sizes meant for journalists. They wanted to stear the fans AWAY from that site (for bandwidth reasons), and were very grateful when I put up those photos for the fans on a site belonging to me. I did that while in a continual conversation with the publicity machine. Those galleries are still up, and probably will be for quite some time.

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The link you provided has nothing to do with MGM, another company another set of rules. If MGM had approached you and asked you to do it then we would not be having this conversation. As best I can tell MGM has rules that must be followed. I would go to their website www.mgmstills.com and check the FAQ and Terms. At this point, without explicit authority from the copyright holder (MGM), I doubt anything further can be done.

 

You say you can use the clip, MGM says;

 

Can I use a Film Clip and/or Still on my website?

 

MGM does not license images for use on websites at this time.

You say you have altered the clip to include just the actor, MGM says;

 

Can I make changes to the Film Clip(s) and/or Still(s)?

 

Alteration or modification of the content of film clips or stills in not permitted

 

Users shall have no right to edit, modify or otherwise alter the materials, or any portion thereof.

 

MGM says;

 

The actor(s) must be contacted for a written release for the use of their likeness and for payment of re-use fees they may be entitled to.

 

You must contact MGM Music and/or the music publishers if any music is included in the Clips for (i) a master use license; and (ii) synchronization and performing licenses.

 

There may be clearance necessary with the Writer's Guild and the Director's Guild.

 

Then you can contact them for licensing fees.

 

I believe there is a burden of proof that will have to be overcome before one can use the clip. You say it works a certain way in the industry, that might be true as I do not know the industry but just because it is done that way does not always mean it is legal.

Edited by TCH-Rob
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The licensing you're quoting refers to a certain use. A different kind of use.

 

My use would be promotional for one of the actors.

 

That website is set up to facilitate licensing. That's another ball of wax.

 

These would use licensing:

1) A documentary that includes a short clip of one of MGM's movies

2) A TV program of any kind that includes stills or video

3) A derivative work

4) Commercials

5) Imagery used in the design of something

 

And they do allow editing. Of course! They tell you to specify what bits you need using timecode. It depends what kind of editing you do. I believe that wording is there to protect the content of those movies so people can't skew the content into saying something it was never meant to say.

 

But remember one thing Rob: I'm not still talking about my particular video clips. I'll check that out independently. Right now I'm talking about copyright in general, and since you brought up that website, then also trying to explain what THAT is about.

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Bottom line Annie is TCH is a hosting company, not a team of litigators.

 

We have spent much time debating this issue and the time has come for you to either contact a attorney or move on to another subject.

 

I am closing this thread.

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