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.”