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Using Film Clips in Presentation Slides – Entertainment Law Asked & Answered



Using film clips in your lecture slides and presentations.

Hi, I'm attorney Gordon Firemark, and this is Asked and Answered, where I answer your entertainment law questions, to help you take your career and business to the next level.

A web visitor wrote in with this question.. She asks:

Hello. I am currently working on a presentation for a series of lectures that I will be giving to the general public, and I want to use clips from several copyrighted documentary films to include in my presentation.

What are laws concerning using copyrighted materials for reproduction and how do I go about getting permission to use such materials?

Because I will be using materials from various sources, I imagine purchasing licenses would be costly. So, are there ways to get licenses for free or at a low cost?

Eventually, I want to produce my own documentary film using the same materials. Is this possible?

Thanks for your question.

The Basic rule is that you cannot use copyright protected material without the consent of the owner except if (In the US), your use is a “fair use” (see my video on that at

So, you’ll need to go through a process we lawyers usually call “clearance” or “clearing” the rights. To do that involves several steps:

– Identify the Material you’re using as specifically as possible (time code, scene number, etc.)
– Identify the owner(s) of the material in question
– Ask for the permission or license you need. (I generally refer to FREE licenses as “Permission” but it’s really just a gratis license). This often involves submitting a written request, detailing the exact material you wish to use, and explaining the context (by providing script pages, or a summary description).
– Negotiate the fee (if one is involved)
– Get the agreement in writing and keep it for your records.

Unfortunately, there is no central, one-stop shop for such licenses, and cost will vary widely depending on the material, and your project. For a lecture or slide-deck, it may be possible to get free licenses.

Also, you’ll need to be careful that any people appearing in the clips you use have given proper permission, (or that there’s some reason they needn’t). If professional actors, musicians, or other performers are involved, it’s likely that they’ll be entitled to a re-use fee, and may have to give explicit permission.

If you plan to produce a documentary film, it might be wise to include that request at the same time you ask about the lecture/slide-deck part of things… That way you’ll have everything handled at once. Even if you separate out the fee for each kind of use.

Of course, you’ll want to make sure that the license agreements cover all of your intended uses fully. So it’s wise to talk to a lawyer familiar with such things before signing any unfamiliar documents.

This is intended as general information only and does not establish an attorney-client relationship. It is not a substitute for a private, independent consultation with an attorney selected to advise you after a full investigation of the facts and law relevant to your matter. We will not be responsible for viewers'’ detrimental reliance upon the information appearing in this feature.

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