So you're a film scholar and you want to analyze Barbara Kopple and Cecilia Peck's wonderful Shut Up and Sing. You want to show how the filmmakers demonstrate intimacy in their shot composition. Do you have to get permission from the distribution company in order to reproduce a frame grab in your academic journal article?
You'd also like to include this example, and compare it with a similar scene from the Maysles brother's classic film Salesman in a forthcoming text for undergraduates. What do you tell the publisher, who wants to see all your permissions?
Oh and you would also like to excerpt this argument, and an illustration, and put it on your website at the university, to demonstrate your approach to film scholarship. The webmaster wants to know if you have permission for the images. What do you say?
Now, for answers, you can turn to the Society for Cinema and Media Studies' Statement of Fair Use Best Practices in Media Studies Publishing, which I was proud to participate in as a member of the Society's policy task force. The Statement provides sound and legally vetted (by American University's Washington College of Law Intellectual Property Clinic!) advice on how to make your Fair Use decisions in film scholarship. The guidance is also useful for scholars grappling with similar problems.
Publishers and even your university's general counsel may not yet have gotten the word, though. It's important in those cases to refer them to the Statement, and to the success of such codes of best practices; the Center's Fair Use page has plenty of helpful information.