What's the deal on rights for a newspaper clipping?
August 7, 2017 2:30 PM   Subscribe

So I got a membership at a newspaper archive site to get clips about old crimes for a docu project. SUCCESS! I found them. Now here's the question: do I have to get the rights FROM the newspaper to pan and scan the article in the video project? What if it includes a photo? I mean I paid for the right to the archive. Does that give me the right to use the clipping or no? How does Ken Burns do this stuff?
posted by rileyray3000 to Law & Government (7 answers total)
What is the project? Are you making money off of it or is it, like, an academic project?
posted by AppleTurnover at 2:36 PM on August 7, 2017

Does the site have any information? As an example, the British Newspaper Archive says this:
What you can use the service for: You can use the website for personal, academic or non-commercial purposes, subject to these Terms & conditions.

Provide a reference if you use any material from the site: If you use any content from the website, whether online or offline, you must make it clear where you have found the material by including a reference to the British Newspaper Archive (www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk); The British Library Board and also the copyright statement that appears on the page you are on. If you’re using material from a newspaper, you can find the copyright reference below the title and date of the publication (above the newspaper page image in the viewer). If you’re quoting general site content, you can find a copyright statement at the bottom of each page.

Using site content for commercial purposes: Please contact us if you want to reproduce or share any of the content on the site (including images of newspapers) for commercial purposes. This includes commercial publishing or sharing in any media format now known, or invented in the future. In many cases, we can make a commercial licence available to you, but you will need to agree this with the copyright owners who licence material to us. You're free to use and share the content on the site for non-commercial use as long as you provide a reference and copyright statement.

Intellectual property rights (including copyright): All intellectual property rights in the website and the content in it belongs to us or has been licensed to us. You can only use it for the purposes described in these Terms & conditions. All other rights are reserved. Find out more about copyright in this government guide.
posted by paduasoy at 2:40 PM on August 7, 2017

I don't know which newspaper archive site you're dealing with, but generally speaking, archive sites can't legally claim copyright administration over their holdings.

Two examples:

Vanderbilt TV News Archive: Because of the stipulations in copyright legislation, all transactions of the Vanderbilt University Television News Archive are considered to be loans from a library and all material must be returned. We do not sell the videos nor license their content. Please be advised that making copies of borrowed videos may be a violation of copyright.

National Archives and Records Administration (NARA): It is the user's responsibility to identify the copyright owner and to obtain all necessary clearances before making commercial, broadcast, or other use of this material. ... The copyright law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code) governs the making of photocopies or other reproductions of copyrighted material. Under certain conditions specified in the law, libraries and archives are authorized to furnish a photocopy or other reproduction. One of these specific conditions is that the photocopy or reproduction is not to be "used for any purpose other than private study, scholarship, or research." If a user makes a request for, or later uses a photocopy or reproduction for purposes in excess of "fair use," that user may be liable for copyright infringement.
posted by mykescipark at 2:44 PM on August 7, 2017

Using the clips may (or may not) be allowable under Fair Use. Your best bet would be to consult with a copyright lawyer, but if you wanted to do that you probably would have instead of asking the question here. Here's a post from a law firm's site about Fair Use and documentary films.
posted by mudpuppie at 4:40 PM on August 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

Addendum: Having paid for the archive gives you no right to use the clips in any way you want. They're still subject to copyright protection. When you paid a subscription to an online newspaper archive, you were paying for the convenience of being able search multiple newspapers from a single search engine. You were not buying rights to the articles you found.
posted by mudpuppie at 4:42 PM on August 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

It might be easier to just talk to the rightsholders (or their agents - sometimes there are clearinghouses for this kind of thing, though I don't know any that specifically deal with newspaper clippings for documentarians) and ask for permission (it could even be free!) rather than consulting with a lawyer and figuring out whether it's Fair Use.

Then again, given how frequently newspapers get bought, sold, and consolidated, that might be more difficult! But if you want any chance at distribution for your film, you will need to clear the clips.

(Note: this refers specifically to showing the clips themselves or extensive quoting/reading from the clips, not to using the clips as reference material.)

(Also: one of the ways Ken Burns dealt with this was by starting with The Civil War - most of what he used was firmly in the public domain. If the reporting you're looking at was published in 1922 or earlier, good news! You're all set. Otherwise, it's more complicated.)
posted by mskyle at 6:45 PM on August 7, 2017

Fair Use might apply.
If the paper is no longer being published, you may not have to worry about licensing. Newspaper archive sites don't necessarily own the rights to reuse of the published piece. The photo may be owned by the photographer. Headlines are not covered by copyright in the US but the text of the story may be.

Ken Burns hires people who do this sort of work.
posted by Ideefixe at 12:04 AM on August 8, 2017

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