Cinema Law: Using Footage for a School Project

Welcome to “Cinema Law,” MovieMaker.com’s all-new blog where you ask the questions of our resident team of legal experts and, each week, they’ll provide the answers to your production queries. Have a burning question yourself? E-mail it to and your question may just be on next week’s blog! Cinema Law is presented as general information only and is not meant to take the place of professional legal advice.

Q: I want to have my school class make a virtual online art exhibition as a class project. Can they legally use a few seconds of footage from various art films and/or magazine or book images of art on the school’s Website?

A: The purpose of copyright law is to promote creativity by providing legal protection for “works” that have been “fixed in a tangible medium.” By law, a copyright owner is given the exclusive rights to reproduce, distribute, publicly perform and publicly display the copyrighted work. The art films, magazines and book images that you reference in your question are “works” that would be entitled to copyright protection, meaning that if those works were copied or reproduced without the owner’s permission, then the owner could sue for copyright infringement.

However, courts have long recognized that certain acts of copying or reproduction are defensible as “fair uses.” One of the oldest recognized forms of “fair uses” is the copying or reproduction of works for nonprofit educational purposes, such as teaching, scholarship, criticism or research. Thus, if your class was only using a few seconds of art films or a few magazine or book images for a face-to-face or in-class project, it would almost certainly be considered a fair use.

But your question states that the class intends to post the art exhibition on the Internet, which takes the online art exhibition out of the traditional parameters of fair use. A court would likely find that the posting of the clips and images on the Internet was a copyright law violation. Thus, I would recommend that the art exhibition be limited to only a face-to-face or in-class project.

Jeremiah Reynolds is an associate at Kinsella Weitzman Iser Kump & Aldisert, a high-profile, L.A.-based entertainment litigation firm, and specializes in complex business litigation, particularly upon entertainment related litigation and contractual disputes. Reynolds’ experience includes disputes relating to motion picture and television distribution rights, merchandising and licensing rights, profit participation and other accounting issues, contractual disputes and intellectual property disputes. In 2006 and 2007, Reynolds was named a “2006 and 2007 Southern California Rising Star” by the publishers of Los Angeles Magazine. He is a cum laude graduate of the University of California, Los Angeles (B.A., 1997) and received his J.D. from the University of Southern California in 2002.

The answers to legal questions provided by the lawyers of Kinsella Weitzman Iser Kump & Aldisert, LLP (“KWIKA”) are for general education and information purposes only, and are not legal advice or legal opinions. The information provided in the articles is not intended to create a lawyer-client relationship between KWIKA and you. The opinions expressed in the postings are the opinions of the authors and do not reflect the opinions of KWIKA, its employees or agents.

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