Fair Usage Publication of Film Stills

Fair Usage Publication of Film Stills

Kristin Thompson makes the case for the fair use of frame grabs in academic publications.

From the article:

“One important facet of the rise of cinema as an academic discipline  has been a new concern to illustrate articles and books with frame enlargements rather than publicity photos. Publicity photos are made  on the set with still cameras, to simulate a scene in the film. They almost invariably use different framings and lighting set-ups than are  used during the filming of the scene with the motion-picture camera.  Some publicity photos even represent actions that are not displayed  in the finished film. Such photos can be of use for certain purposes,  as when historians study lost footage from films like Greed or The  Magnificent Ambersons. For purposes of analyzing finished films,  however, many scholars believe that photographs made from frames  of the actual film strip are preferable, since they reproduce an actual  composition that appears in a shot.

The legal status of such reproductions of frames has remained  problematic. Does the use of a frame enlargement violate copyright? Should the scholar contact the copyright holder to obtain permission  to reproduce frames, and, if the firm demands a fee for such
permission, does it have to be paid? Similarly, for those scholars who  use publicity photographs, there arises the question of whether their  reproduction requires permission from and payment to a film  company or archive.”


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