This is not a movie review.
February 19, 2007 6:28 PM   Subscribe

I've seen many movie review sites that host, or link to, images from the movies. Assuming the site didn't get permission, is this legal? What if you're selling ads on the review site, or charging users a premium to view it? Or is there some way of definitively identifying a photo as a publicity still, meant to be used by anyone who isn't diluting the brand? Obviously, this extends beyond movies, to books and other products.
posted by bingo to Law & Government (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
its legal if its for news purposes. lets say you write a shitty review of an album, and you include a copy of the album cover next to your zero star rating and review. you are protected and cannot be sued for infringement.

if this review is in the context of a magazine that is "sold" or has advertising or turns a profit, it is still legal. as long as you don't use that particular image inappropriately (outside the context of the review) you are cool.
posted by phaedon at 6:38 PM on February 19, 2007

there are also other exceptions to copyright infringement, by the way, including the use of an image or song for the purposes of parody.
posted by phaedon at 6:38 PM on February 19, 2007

According to Wikipedia,
It is believed that the use of a limited number of web-resolution screenshots

* for identification and critical commentary on the film and its contents
* on the English-language Wikipedia, hosted on servers in the United States by the non-profit Wikimedia Foundation,

qualifies as fair use under United States copyright law.
Fair use is a doctrine in United States copyright law that allows limited use of copyrighted material without requiring permission from the rights holders, such as use for scholarship or review. It provides for the legal, non-licensed citation or incorporation of copyrighted material in another author's work under a four-factor balancing test.
Charging for the review would probably also be legal (not a lawyer), what isn't covered by fair use is high res shots, or anything that would be cutting into the profits of the movie by virtue of the images... Er, if you say "this scene sucks" and use a small image to show why, that's OK, if you just put up a lot of high-res images so that people don't even bother to see the movie, that's bad.
posted by anaelith at 6:43 PM on February 19, 2007

Many distribution companies release photos solely for the purpose of promotion. These photos can be used to promote the film in nearly any medium.
posted by bjork24 at 8:32 PM on February 19, 2007

Stanford Copyright & Fair Use has all the info you could possibly need.
posted by frogan at 10:07 PM on February 19, 2007

I'd imagine they are usually the promotion stills bjork24 mentions. But small reproductions for criticism or review are generally an exception to copyright. In Australia it's known as 'fair dealing' and authorised under s42 or thereabouts of the Copyright Act, although fair dealing is much narrower than US-style fair use.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 2:00 AM on February 20, 2007

The problem with the publicity stills...and sorry, I really meant this to be implicit in the that there is no way that many of the sites I'm talking about received official promo packets from the studio. So it's either not the case, or someone had a way of identifying which photos were the promotional stills meant for general use. Unless that's ALL promotional stills.
posted by bingo at 6:17 AM on February 20, 2007 that there is no way that many of the sites I'm talking about received official promo packets from the studio.

It's not necessary to have received a promo packet directly from the studio in order to use promo stills within fair-use copyright rules. Studios often have online promo stills and press-packet info that are accessible to pretty much anyone.
posted by dryad at 8:10 AM on February 20, 2007

dryad, that's obviously true, but the distinction is that very often, the promo stills are not presented online in the context of a press packet. Obviously everyone wants to promote the products that they're selling, and obviously everyone with a product that you can take a picture of is going to have a picture they're releasing for promotional use, but that is not the same thing as saying that every picture that a company releases of their own product is meant to be used by anyone who wants to use it.

However, from others' answers above, it sounds like it doesn't really matter, as long as my use of the image doesn't harm the market potential of the film (unless used in a negative review, which is somehow the exception).
posted by bingo at 9:26 AM on February 20, 2007

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