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Content, Writing and Copyright Forum

Fair Use and movies.
Legal to make screenshots of movies?

 12:21 am on Aug 31, 2004 (gmt 0)

Is it legal to make screen shots from movies and post them on the internet and let others download and use them?



 1:32 am on Aug 31, 2004 (gmt 0)

If your use is for commentary, criticism or parody, you should fall into the category of fair use. (I'm assuming we're taling about US law here.) The "let others download and use them" part of your question makes me nervous, though. Research fair use--the Stanford University Libraries have lots of good info on line.

I'm certainly not a lawyer, though, so don't take what I say too seriously. Another thing to bear in mind: even if you're completely right, that doesn't make you immune from getting sued. I know that's not a brave and valiant thing to say, but you have to choose your battles.


 1:56 am on Aug 31, 2004 (gmt 0)

Your use of screen shots may infringe on the publicity rights of the people (movie stars etc) and that will get you into bigger trouble than mere fair use arguments.

If you use a still of Paul Newman captured out of a movie for your commercial website, it is still a Paul Newman face, and Paul Newman has publicity rights for his likeness. Unauthorized commercial use of images of people (people who have established that they have expanded publicity rights, like celebrities) is a very strictly enforced part of copyright law. You don't have much chance defending against those charges.


 1:07 pm on Sep 4, 2004 (gmt 0)

Is it legal to make screen shots from movies and post them on the internet and let others download and use them?
1. No
and why
2. If the images from the movies contain images of stars you can get sued for infringing on the stars exclusive right to use their own image (your own face is you own naturually trademarked property under US trademark law)
The reason being it can give the misimpression that the star has somehow endorsed your site. (Arnold Schwarzenegger recently won a similar law suit over a car dealership that used his face without his permission)
3. If you let others download the material that's unauthorized distribution of copyrighted material (one of the exclusive rights of copyright owners is to decide how their content is distributed)
4. Obviously you don't own the movies and therefore do not own the stills from the movie so you can't "allow" others to use them because you don't have the legal authority to grant such permission for use.
5. Fair use has a few limitations:
The Fair Use doctrine allows a limited portion copyrighted works to be reproduced for limited purposes, such as teaching, news reporting, criticism, comment, and research.
It's important to keep in mind fair use has traditionally been interpreted by the courts as being a limited (tiny) part of the copyrighted work, and a limited audience (a teacher in a classroom would be fair use while the whole world having access on the net would not.)


 10:26 am on Sep 12, 2004 (gmt 0)

I wouldn't worry too much about it. There are a billion movie sites out there, and 90% of them uses movie screenshots/stills on their site under the Fair Use Act (usually accompanying a review), and I have not heard, in all the years I've been around, anyone being sued for using said images. Especially with actors, any publicity is good publicity. Unless, of course, you take their image and morph it into a fake nude pic of them. Then I can see them getting upset. But I wouldn't waste my time losing sleep over it, despite what everyone says. They're not in "the business", as it were, and they're just going by what they've read and their interpretation of the laws. If you did get sued, you'd be the first guy out of a billion, and if that's the case, you're just downright unlucky.


 7:10 pm on Sep 12, 2004 (gmt 0)


There is a huge difference between what the original poster suggests, and "review sites". Review is very specifically covered under Fair Use.

"[P]ost them on the internet and let others download and use them", ain't anywhere near the same thing.


 8:02 pm on Sep 12, 2004 (gmt 0)

@Big Dave

I still don't think it makes a difference. Movie studios hand out production stills/promotional images like their life depends on it. Look at Yahoo! Movies or any number of major movie sites. They don't do movie reviews at all, and their only purpose is to provide movie images for people to download and reuse -- the whole purpose is to spread the images in order to promote their movie. Really, I understand most people's reply to this topic, but having been in this business for a while now, I can tell you that movie studios would PAY you to distribute their movie images/stills if they couldn't get you to take it for free.


 2:11 am on Sep 13, 2004 (gmt 0)

If the movie company supplies them for this purpose, and makes it clear, then that is fine. But read the post again: "Is it legal" and "make screen shots".

The question is not whether you can get away with it, or whether the studio might give you permission. The question is whether it is legal and considered fair use.

As described, it is not fair use. It is not the shots supplied "with permission". Therefore, it is NOT legal unless you gain permission.

Whether they will prosecute or not is a different question, and not one that you are qualified to answer since you are not the rights holder, but it is a fool that is willing to risk it.


 3:02 am on Sep 13, 2004 (gmt 0)

To the original poster: You can spend all your life walking on eggshells, or you can do what 50 million other websites are already doing, and go right ahead and post those images.

'Nuff said on this subject for me.


 5:18 am on Oct 13, 2004 (gmt 0)

The Internet is really like the Wild West! One cannot expect Web marketers to know the dos and don'ts. But there are still laws. In my opinion, and I am not a lawyer, you must calculate your risks in business. I for one would never follow advice to go ahead a just take the risk of copyright infringement.


 5:54 am on Oct 13, 2004 (gmt 0)

Have you tried asking the production companies for the right to use shots? They might say yes, which should offer you some peace of mind...


 8:17 am on Oct 13, 2004 (gmt 0)

I would try and get permission first. Who knows - if they like your site you may get a link from an official site :)

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