A cameo appearance of a book cover
July 10, 2009 12:06 PM   Subscribe

I'm making a movie which will have shots of a cover of a book. Do I need permission from the publisher to do this?
posted by storybored to Media & Arts (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
This is a very tricky area, actually, at least in US practice; I see that you're in Canada, so your best bet may be to seek help from the National Film Board.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:21 PM on July 10, 2009

This is a very tricky area, actually, at least in US practice;

What she said. The short answer is "it depends; mostly, yes," but even beyond use and context a lot of it comes down to preference. In the U.S., most studios err on the side of clearing absolutely everything that appears in their films, but that's not to say they have to-- they just fear litigation.
posted by dersins at 12:30 PM on July 10, 2009

Does it need to be the cover of a specific book, or any book will do? If it's the latter, it's pretty easy to create fake book covers.

If it's the former, you could call the legal department of the publisher and ask in the hypothetical.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 12:35 PM on July 10, 2009

This falls into the "Yes, but don't be ridiculous" category -- no one's going to send you a cease and desist simply because their book appears in your movie and you didn't clear it with them first. Will this be a widely-distributed movie made for millions of dollars with a professional prop department? Yeah, then don't do it. Will this be a festival-screened-if-we're-lucky made-on-a-shoestring with a prop department consisting of Things I Have In My Trunk? You're fine, no big deal, no one will care. It's a little like clearing music for a student film; Peter Gabriel doesn't care that you're using the Passion soundtrack for your 8mm black-and-white project for 22A Intro to Film. If you're the latter but hoping to sell the film into wider distribution, first of all, best of luck to you, and secondly, if there's a legal problem it can be cleared (or digitally wiped) after the fact if the buyer can't clear the title, and it'll probably go through a DI anyway, so while they're finishing the deliverables, they can do stuff like this as well. It's very easy and done all the time.
posted by incessant at 1:40 PM on July 10, 2009

I agree 100% with incessant's answer, but

It's very easy and done all the time

should be amended with, "it can also get quite expensive." Speaking as one who lives with a former digital effects professional.
posted by roger ackroyd at 3:04 PM on July 10, 2009

Ultimately, the question you need to ask is 'How important is this book to the movie?" Is the book's title an important plot point, a genre reference, or merely an allusion (or something else entirely). There's any number of ways to refer to previous works indirectly, but if you're really tying yourself to that work in your narrative you will need to be careful.
posted by Sparx at 5:11 PM on July 10, 2009

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