I wasn't sure where to post this to, but was hoping that maybe somebody would know the answer.
I want to use footage of historical figures, such as Hitler or the Tank Man in the Tiananmen Square or the buddhist who committed self-immolation. I can't find an answer anywhere in the vastness of the Internet. Does anybody know where I can obtain such footage, and if so without consequence of copyright?
If you want it rights-free, you may have a problem. Try a keyword search for your footage that includes the terms: "public domain" and/or "creative commons" or "Library Of Congress'... Most newsreel footage or network TV footage is owned by someone and using it will generally cost you money to obtain rights. The exceptions are footage that is Public Domain and footage put up on Creative Commons by people who have agreed to make it easy and free or low-cost to use that footage.
Everything has copyright, i.e., it's owned by someone, except for stuff which is old enough to have fallen out of copyright and become public domain and even then you probably have to pay to get a copy of it.
Having said that, you can probably get what you want from the big libraries, e.g., Getty Images. They are rather expensive though. CriticalPast are good for war stuff in my experience. Check NASA out for anything to do with space. Itnsource, Britishpathe, Aparchive have news footage.
It can be expensive to go through those sources (apart from NASA) but you should be able to get what you need and the fee will give you a licence to use it without having to worry further about copyright.