Fair Use of movie stills

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  1. RonElFran profile image97
    RonElFranposted 9 years ago

    I'm planning a hub about one particular actor in one particular scene of a movie. Without a visual representation of the actor in the scene the article would be meaningless, but no free or non-copyrighted photos appear to exist. To me this seems a classic case for Fair Use, as reflected in this assessment from http://dearauthor.com/features/letters- … bloggers/:

    "As it relates to screenshots from movies, for example, we use those in our movie reviews because it is a small portion (amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the whole) and it involves commentary of the copyrighted work.  Further, our use of the movie stills have no effect on the potential market or value of the movie.  We aren’t putting up a competing product or reducing the size of the market for that movie."

    I've read the Learning Center article, and others on HubPages. It seems that HP doesn't forbid Fair Use images, but directs that extreme care be exercised. So, I wanted to get input on whether anyone knows of a reason why my Fair Use argument for this movie still might be flawed. Any thoughts?

    1. RachaelOhalloran profile image86
      RachaelOhalloranposted 9 years agoin reply to this

      I use screenshots from videos all the time. Under the Fair Use clause, as long as you are using the pix to comment on, to criticize or to parody the subject, and refer back (link back) to the source, it is permitted. You can refer to my hub about copyright infringement to get a verbatim description of fair use as determined by a judge in March 2014. But what I gave you is the gist of it. lol

    2. Matthew Meyer profile image73
      Matthew Meyerposted 9 years agoin reply to this


      Fair use is usually associated with things that do not generate money, so there could potentially be issues for Hubs that are monetized (ads enabled).

      This site talks about the 4 principles and one of them is
      (1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
      http://dearauthor.com/features/letters- … -bloggers/

      So it is good practice to disable ads based on Hubs that contain content you are trying to use under fair use based on the non-commercial provision.

      This may be helpful too.

      NOTE: I am not a legal expert by any means. I just wanted to add the part about fair use looking at non-commercial content.

      1. RachaelOhalloran profile image86
        RachaelOhalloranposted 9 years agoin reply to this

        Hi Matthew, I'm not a legal expert either, but I try to learn as much as I can  in regard to copyrights and what constitutes fair use so I don't get sued.  If no one on HP were allowed to use a movie still on hubs that have ads running, then many of the hubs on this site would have to be taken down. With that said, the second link you provided addressed RonElFran's question under Criticism & Commentary: A book publisher used several stills from the famous 1963 Zapruder footage of President Kennedy's assassination for the historical book Six Seconds in Dallas. Time Inc., the owner of the footage, sued the book publisher for copyright infringement. In Time Inc. v. Bernard Geis Associates, the court ruled that the publisher's use of the stills was "fair and reasonable," in part because the use was based on a factual and historical news event.
        The movie studios challenged this with Wizard of Oz & Gone With The Wind stills used for promotions on TCM and other channels. They lost because TCM and others did not alter the work and because their use referred back to the original work. If RonElFran cites his source, even if he were to include the whole video, your answer to disable his ads is unreasonable.
        Summarizing your first link:  if the YouTube video has a "share" button, a "download" button, or an "embed code" it is implied fair use because the author has given permission to the public to show (share) the video with link back to the original posting of the video. This is done automatically on YouTube whenever anyone clicks any of those buttons.
        In cases of fair use, one doesn't have to ask permission of the author as long as the work comments on, relates to the historical context or critically refers back to the original work. The same goes for YouTube, one does not have to ask permission of the author to use, share, download or embed the video on any site - with or without ads. If I were to take a video camera and film a YouTube video from my computer screen, then it is copyright infringement because I am making a video (copying) from their copyrighted video. If I am using a still frame, it is fair use when it is used in support of a commentary to get a point across.
        As long as RonElFran (or anyone else for that matter) is not altering the still or taking advantage of fair use guidelines,  (I am assuming his use is for commentary and is needed to get his point across in the hub), then it is fine.
        The fact that he has ads running should play no part in his use. Commercial uses are still considered fair use per teachingcopyright.org. In this case, RonElFran is not launching a website for a product line using the movie still, he is simply using it as a point of reference to support his commentary in his article.
        Even if he wanted to deface the movie still, unfortunately in Cariou vs Prince, March 2014, the court ruled that transformative art is also considered fair use --if one were to add quotes objects and frames to existing works of art, in essence defacing a work.  That is a ruling I don't agree with as I stated on my article, but it is the law of the land as of 3/2014.
        Lastly, I refer you to arstechnica.com/uncategorized/2008/07/new-guide-lays-out-fair-use-best-practices-for-online-video/
        under the section copying to launch a discussion - clips to kick off a discussion is fine as long as the clip (still) is used for that purpose.

      2. profile image52
        Kiran Johnposted 6 years agoin reply to this

        Hi Matthew Meyer,  I'm a movie mistake finder. I started finding movie mistakes and upload to youtube from May 2016. I use only screenshots of movies with my own voice to explain mistakes in movies and I always use free musics from youtube as background music.. Today, I got a message saying "A copyright owner using Content ID claimed some material in your video." , also, that video is now monetizing by "Whackedoutmedia".  How was it occured? What is the solution to overcome it? please help me

        1. theraggededge profile image97
          theraggededgeposted 6 years agoin reply to this

          This is a two year-old thread. Why not start a new one?

          Also, it looks as though you have joined in order to use the forum. This site is for writers at HubPages so you are probably asking in the wrong place.

    3. junkseller profile image81
      junksellerposted 9 years agoin reply to this

      Another possible issue is publicity rights. That right is the right a person has over how their image is used. There was a recent case of this where Bradley Cooper and Liam Neeson sued a couple of companies who had used a screenshot from the A-Team in an advertising campaign.

      Peter Fonda has a lawsuit against Dolce & Gabanna for selling T-shirts with an image of him riding his bike from the film Easy Rider, is another example.

      Unless you are saying something about the person that isn't very flattering or you specifically have a commercial intent, I suspect it is very unlikely anyone will care, but technically, it is still a possibility.

  2. RonElFran profile image97
    RonElFranposted 9 years ago

    Thanks, Rachael. Your experience is encouraging.

  3. Thief12 profile image91
    Thief12posted 9 years ago

    I don't know much about the legal mumbo-jumbo, but since most of my Hubs are film-related, I'll share my thoughts. For all the movie/TV stills I include in my Hubs, I add a caption with a copyright to the company that distributes/produces the film/show. I have 40+ Hubs and I've never had a problem with fair use, copyrights, and whatnot. Just my experience.

  4. chriscamaro profile image91
    chriscamaroposted 9 years ago

    It's a bit of a slippery slope in terms of the legality but I agree that fair use applies in most cases, especially if the scene or picture is very popular and well known.  Showing Arnold on his bike with the shades and the shotgun is a good example.  There's probably a million and 1 instances on the net.  I doubt Arny is going to come after you for it.  Something more obscure of a less famous/wealthy person might attract some attention in theory which is why you just have to be fair and be smart about it.

  5. LuisEGonzalez profile image80
    LuisEGonzalezposted 9 years ago

    If you want to use only one image and your article is a piece of criticism, evaluation, instruction, comparison, or technical discussion it should be OK.

    The courts mostly (but not always) focus on transformative issues (altering of the original). Assuming you will not alter the original film still then again you should be OK.

    Since you only intend to use a very small portion (less than 10%) of a much larger product (a film) you are in essence not interfering with the monetary gains that the owner (film studio) may gain from the entire film; a film still is approximately less than a second (more like 0.83 % from a two hour movie for example. The actual amount of material appropriated from the original is a very small percentage, since the still is one frame out of thousands, if not more which is common for the vast majority of films.

    In a 1993 Ad Hoc Committee this was discussed and among many conclusions, the committee argued that "They not only believe that it is fair use to publish film stills, they do not believe that gaining permission should be necessary." Report of the Ad Hoc Committee of the Society For Cinema Studies, “Fair Usage Publication of Film Stills” by Kristen Thompson."

    Putting the law aside for a moment, most studios look kindly on articles about their products since it adds "views" and may increase the public's interest level in the product and they seldom turn away new interest building possibilities. Keep in mind that this is not a rule but rather a tendency/common practice.

    If however, your article is critical about the actor/film then they may react differently.

    All of this said, it seems from what you are saying/planning that Fair Use would be firmly on your side  provided you include proper attribution and a link which is   usually  "expected"  and serves to further back up your Fair Use Doctrine application since you are giving the owner/studio new "traffic" that they would otherwise not get.

    Links and attribution also help to weaken an "infringement on financial gains" argument by the owner/studio.

  6. Tolovaj profile image87
    Tolovajposted 9 years ago

    I deal with copyright issues all the time and I can say fair use is not a world wide category. HubPages is accessed from all parts of the world. If the message of the copyright owner says 'no part ... can be used', case should be clear and we don't need a lawyer for further explanations. If I would really want to use a copyrighted image, I would try to find it on YouTube. In this case I just provide a link to third party which is responsible and have a contract with somebody who uploaded the part.

    Commercial and non-commercial use makes no difference, if copyright owner didn't explicitly allowed usage of something for non-commercial purposes (and even with ads off this is still debatable category).

    Another possibility is of course to contact the owner of copyright, explain the situation and ask for permission.

  7. stephenteacher profile image69
    stephenteacherposted 6 years ago

    All the legal argument "mumbo jumbo" is meaningless on HUB. You are not doing things on your own property. You are doing it on Hub. So, if hub decides they don't want it, then you can't use it. You can make all the legal arguments you want. Does not matter. I would imagine that hub, if they were found, probably would not allow them. As they don't allow a ton of stuff. Just read a nonsense thread here on some guy and his penis enlarger....wondering why hub won't allow it. I just can't fathom that anyone would even suggest such a thing here. Sure, still images are a tad different, but still iffy. Hub can block whatever they want. it's their baby. Domains and hosting are cheap. Dirt cheap. For 10 bucks (or less) a month, you can do whatever you want to your heart's content, on your very own property.


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