Need free war on terror footage for documentary.
March 13, 2007 6:59 AM   Subscribe

Where can I find good quality free video footage of the "war on terror" for use as b-roll in a documentary?

In short, I need royalty-free and cost-free footage of "the war on terror" at a size/framerate suitable for inclusion in a documentary. Where is it and how do I get it free?

I'm assisting a documentary filmmaker space out a documentary by finding footage clips to use as b-roll to break up all the talking heads. We're looking for video on a number of themes, but the primary one I'm after right now is generic "war on terror" stuff, such as Afghanistan/Iraq war footage, 9/11, other terrorist incidents and aftermath, speeches, coverage of notable domestic policy changes, lifestyle changes, and anything else that conveys the sort of atmosphere we find ourselves living in since 9/11.

It's the usual shoestring budget scenario, so we're looking to get free footage whenever possible, and to use it via the Fair Use doctrine (I know that's a can of worms, but I'm just looking for sources at this point). I've never done this before and am trying to identify places to get this sort of footage. Google shows me plenty of stock footage houses which offer high quality, royalty-free clips, but they aren't cost-free. And I can find plenty of free stuff out on the internet but it's poor quality. Only (as previous AskMe threads suggested) has so far offered free stuff in higher quality, though it's kind of a mongrel bag of stuff and not usually the raw footage but somebody else's montage and commentary.

In cases where we could legitimately reproduce footage under Fair Use, how do I actually get my hands on the high quality footage for free to start with? For example C-SPAN offers loads of archives of usable stuff, but you still have to buy it to actually get it in your hands in order to excerpt clips from it.

Is there a way to get this kind of thing free?
posted by kookoobirdz to Media & Arts (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
One way to find footage is to look at government agencies. Many will provide footage assuming that you work for a non-profit or are using the footage for educational purposes (there is some leeway about what those things mean). Contact me off-list for more specifics.
posted by answergrape at 7:10 AM on March 13, 2007

Be aware of the unfortunate truth that your documentary is unsellable - utterly unusable - unless every second of footage in it is cleared by the copyright police.

So if this is for a school project or something, great, knock yourself out. If not, if it's actually intended to be a commercial product, there is no alternative but paying for stock footage. There's no such thing as "fair use" in commercial movie-making.[1]

[1] Note this this is a statement of ground-level reality, not a statement of law. In theory, under the law, you *should* be able to use clips from other sources in your movie without obtaining their permission. In actual practice however, obtaining permission for every second of footage is completely mandatory for selling your film.
posted by jellicle at 7:21 AM on March 13, 2007

This material doesn't exist. I doubt the "free" material on is actually cleared of copyright or usable under fair use. Sorry. You need to shoot it yourself. Reasons that this is unfeasible are tied exactly to why the material doesn't exist in the first place.

Your best bet is to use "free" - as in watermarked - material from internet stock houses and plan on paying for it if ever you want to show the doc outside your edit suite.
posted by mzurer at 7:30 AM on March 13, 2007

Any federal government footage you can get your hands on is in the public domain.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:49 AM on March 13, 2007

dun dun dun da da dun! Call the Pentagon and ask to speak to their film and TV liaison!
posted by parmanparman at 8:08 AM on March 13, 2007

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