Copyright & Royalty-Free Resources
Frequently Asked Questions
Content courtesy of The Adobe Foundation/ Education Development Center
When teaching media literacy and media arts, you can't skip copyright! Students are for the most part used to indiscriminately downloading and using anything posted online. It is your job to make them aware that EVERYTHING is copyrighted, unless it officially is not. And though a copyright lesson sounds dry, you can present copyright to students as an opportunity, an opportunity to be original. This is the first thing you should tell students: try to be as original as possible by taking your own photos, video, and creating your own music (or finding friends who can make music/ sound effects for you). This will never fail in getting more students invested and collaborating in and outside of school walls.
Below are some FAQ about copyright that you can use for media making in your classroom. And at the end of this page is a curated a list of sites for copyright free music, sound effects, film footage, etc. to help you and your students stay legit!
What is copyrighted?
All creative work is copyrighted. Even if there is no copyright notice or emblem, since 1978, all creative works automatically have the protections of copyright laws.
But I'm not making money off my piece?
Even if you don't make any money on the use of someone else's creative work, it can still be a violation of copyright laws.
Do I always have to credit the original creator?
Even if you believe that the borrowed material is "safe" (falls under the Fair Use Doctrine), the original creator must always be credited.
Are there any exceptions to this rule?
Public Domain: Works created in the U.S. prior to 1923 are now in the public domain and are not protected by copyright. You should assume, unless you know otherwise, that anything created after 1923 is protected by copyright laws. In addition, many works created between 1923 and 1964 have allowed their copyrights to lapse and are now in the public domain.
So when can I copy creative material?
Portions of creative works may be copied for educational purposes and the purposes of parody or criticism.
- Who appears on screen in your film? Have you gotten signed releases from all these individuals? If you have not gotten all needed releases, can you go back and get them at this time?
- What locations are shown in your film? Are there any recognizable locations (including places of business, private residences) or public places (such as city parks, public buildings) that may require signed releases? Do you have the needed releases? Can you get them?
- What are the planned components of your film's soundtrack? Do any of these components pose potential copyright problems? Music: Are you using someone else's music? Do you have permission to use it? Narration: Are voices other than your own used? Do you have signed releases for these?
- Looking back at the footage that will be used in your film, do you see any recognizable logos, trademark designs, copyrighted slogans, product containers, etc. visible in any scenes? If there are any of these visible items, what options do you have for dealing with these copyrighted items?
- Does your film contain any clips or segments taken from a commercial video, or taped from commercial or public television? Do you think the use of these would constitute copyright violations, or would the fair use doctrine apply? What choices will you have to make in dealing with these issues?
OTHER CONSIDERATIONS FOR COPYRIGHT
Media Use Guidelines
FILM & VIDEO
Am I allowed to show brands?
The truth is, you should try to avoid this. In general, no, you are not legally allowed to show brands. However, in documentary film, since going out of your way to avoid these would in effect be altering the reality you are documenting, it is generally agreed that you are allowed to show brands. Make sure that content is attributed when needed and it is not the prime focus of the scene unless needed. Be sure that the brand was not purposely put in the shot if not needed to critique.
How would I make a piece about consumerism without showing brands?
If you are creating a documentary that is critiquing these brands, you are allowed to use them in context. That means use just enough to make or illustrate your point, no more.
What should I do if I need to comply with copyright and release laws?
Get release forms for any recognizable private locations (e.g. stores, private homes) and for any public locations.
Get written permission for any music, images or text created by someone other than yourself that you use in your film. Always refer to your educator/mentor if you are ever unsure about the borrowed material in your project.
How can I avoid copyright or release hassles?
1. Try your best to keep identifiable copyrighted images, such as commercial logos, out of your project.
2. Do not use clips from other films, videos, or TV programs.
3. Use all original music, audio, images, or ones that are in the "public domain".
4. Find music and other material that the creators have agreed to make available for sharing. Creative Commons, for example, runs a great website that enables people to share their creative work with the public in a legal way.
*IMPORTANT NOTE: If you are producing a film that will be viewed only in your school classes, or by friends, teachers, family, etc., it is probably safe to assume that any legal copyright action against you would be unlikely. However, if your film is a hit at school and with friends and family, you might want to enter it in film festivals and contests that would require adherence to copyright laws. It may be difficult to go back and get the necessary releases and permissions after your film has been made.
Release Forms Gallery
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