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Fair Use Question Of The Month - I Have Access, But Do I Need Permission?

In this month's Fair Use Question, filmmakers aren't sure if they can get permission from the owners of footage that they'd like to use, and are curious about whether or not this affects a potential fair use claim.



Hi -

We are writing with a fair use question.  We are working on a program about political unrest and an internet shutdown in western China- Xinjiang.  Some of the footage is from CCTV, the Chinese national network.  We were able to get some of this footage from Archive.org.  If we can’t reach CCTV or if we do reach CCTV and they do not give permission to use the footage because of the political nature of the program, can we argue fair use?  We want to use the footage to show the extent and importance of the event.

It's important to note that while the Codes of Best Practices have been scrutinized and approved by a legal advisory committee, no one at the Center for Social Media is a lawyer and we cannot help you reach a fair use determination when fair use is decided on such a case-by-case basis.  However, there are quite a few resources on our website that could help you as you move forward with your project.  The Statement of Best Practices in Documentary Filmmaking and the Online video code, as well as further resources to help you with your questions, can be found at this link:

Remember, you can always ask yourself the two most basic questions that any fair user inevitably must ask:
1) am I reusing copyrighted material for its original purpose (for which there is a market) or am I repurposing/transforming the material?
2) am I only using as much as is appropriate for that new use?

 And there is no need to ask for permission, but if you do ask and they say "no", this doesn't weaken your fair use argument, although citation/credit is always good etiquette.

Thanks, and good luck on your project!

The Center for Social Media