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Fair Use Question on Using Clips in Public Radio


Dear CSM, I'm a reporter for public radio. Is it "Fair Use" to use a short clip from a TV show or film in order to make a point in a given story, even if I'm not commenting directly on the clip? If so, what is the maximum amount of material I am allowed to use of a given TV show or film. My understand is that if 10% or less of the story is devoted to that material, it's "Fair Use." Is that true?




There is no "10 per cent rule," unfortunately. The question always is: how and why are you using the material. According to the documentary filmmakers who created the statement, you must contextualize the clip somehow-- it can’t just be the original material without you clearly illustrating how it is relevant to the story. See the Statement of Best Practices in Fair Use for more clarity.

According to the law, there is no percentage that you are allowed to Fair Use. The Statement suggests that you can use the material long enough to make your point but no further. A while ago, broadcast networks wrote Standards and Practices manuals for news reporting that described percentages of copyrighted material that were fair to use for evening news. That was then, but the notion of a "ten percent rule" or a "30 second rule" is still very vivid. It has no force in law. The filmmakers’ Statement is tailored to the environment of documentary filmmaking and can be applied across genres, but nothing stops radio reporters from also creating standards documents that are appropriate to their practices.

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