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Bob Cole
News footage
on May 9, 2013 at 7:03:59 pm

I have a couple of questions about how to use news footage.

First: I'm seeing clips being used extensively in broadcast and cable. Am I correct to assume that the shows which use broadcast clips from other networks are invoking "Fair Use" to avoid paying fees? And have you ever understood "Fair Use" to apply to corporate video? (It is kind of odd that shows like The Colbert Report are able to invoke "Fair Use" even while saying "We're not news, we're entertainment." I get it that The Colbert Report is satire, but the logic of denying "Fair Use" to some productions, while allowing it for others, still seems a bit difficult to parse.)

Second: The published fees that I've seen for the major news outlets are quite high. If you have experience with negotiating for news footage, could you share a tip or two?

Third: How are "comps" handled? That is, can I edit a show without paying full rate, until we know for sure which clips we're using, etc.? Given the high fees, I would not want to order footage which wound up on the cutting room floor. Are certain sources more understanding about the editing process (the need for comps) or just generally easier to work with than others?

Fourth: I wonder how the clip-compiling shows (like Colbert) handle the logistics of gathering all of these sources, especially if they are using the clips for free. And, can we take advantage of the same sources, if only to use the material as comps while awaiting final approval of an edit? Is there some kind of publicly accessible library of clips that is available even if you don't work for The Daily Show?

Thanks for any insights you have about this topic.

Bob C

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Bill Davis
Re: News footage
on May 10, 2013 at 8:36:26 am


There is a very specific exemption under copyright law for both satire and for the use of small snippits of otherwise copyright material for teaching and criticism in areas such as reviews and classroom teaching. As I understand it, the test for whether or not a particular use is in fact "fair use" is a matter of interpretation and only gets proven if someone is sued and can't mount an affirmative defense of that use.

So the smart thing is to always assume that whatever use you're contemplating will NOT be "fair use" unless your situation fits directly into the specified established patterns of case law.

As to media giants using copyright content snippits, there are mechanisms that they use where an organization like a TV network will pay for a "blanket use" license allowing them to use the copyright material from, perhaps, a music licensing organization like ASCAP or BMI on their network as incidental music at will. But thats the exception, not the rule.

The only way I know of to use copyright material in the way you're discussing, is to clear the use through a legitimate rights management professional in advance.

If you want to discuss this with a broker - BZ Rights and Permissions in New York City has a long and solid reputation in the field. Or you can contact Comedy Central directly and ask about their licensing policies.

The one thing sure is that for organizations of their size, there WILL be teams of lawyers ready and willing to protect their copyright interests - and use of their property without prior permission will put your project and clients at risk.

Good luck and let us know how things go.

Know someone who teaches video editing in elementary school, high school or college? Tell them to check out - video editing curriculum complete with licensed practice content.

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Andrew Kimery
Re: News footage
on May 15, 2013 at 1:43:25 am

To build on what Bill has already said, satire goes a long way and people getting treated differently is the nature of the beast. If Production A meets the standards then they are protected by Fair Use. If Production B does not meet the standards then they are not protected. Context is everything which is why you can't really make blanket statements about what may or may not be covered by Fair Use.

With regards to editing, low rez screener copies should be available (many times with TC burned in) and you cut with those and then once you lock edit you request and pay for the high rez masters of the clips you used. There is a chicken/egg aspect to it as sometimes you have to change out a shot that you want because you can't afford it.

As far as how do shows like Cobert Report handle this? They have a research department that acquires the footage and lawyers to make sure only things legitimately acquired and cleared go on air. The more you buy the lower a fee you can negotiate (just like buying anything in bulk).

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