View Full Version : Using TV Commercials In Documentaries

08-13-2004, 08:45 PM
Does anyone know what the legalities are? How open are companies to filmmakers using their commercials? Also not too far off the topic, does anyone have an idea of how to go about using television news footage? Is there a department that handles stuff like that specifically?

08-16-2004, 02:09 PM
About using commercials - Companies spend millions of $'s producing and airing commercials to sell their products and are therefore VERY PROTECTIVE of them. Coming from an agency background and seeing how aggressive they can get, I would suggest not using a commercial or even a piece of a commercial in your project unless you get permission. With that being said, if your project is painting the advertiser in a positive light, they may be open to letting you use thier matieral for free. In fact, product placement has become a common cash generator for films. Have your all-American star smiling and driking a can of Coke, ya might get something out of them. Have your murderous rapist drinking a can of Coke before attacking each victim, you're gonna have problems.

About news footage - same thing. It is all copyrighted, so you can get yourself into trouble using it without permission. Virtually all news companies will sell the rights to footage. However, depending on what it is you are wanting, it could be very pricey. Also consider stock houses. Here again, there is a cost involved, but at least you will have the rights to use whatever you purchase and avoid legal headaches.

But keep in mind, as has been said by so many on this board, I'm not a lawyer. Your best bet for the most accurate info is to consult a media lawyer knowledgeable in placement and properties.

Good Luck!

08-16-2004, 07:36 PM
"Have your murderous rapist drinking a can of Coke before attacking each victim, you're gonna have problems."


Thanks, I kinda had a feeling it was like that. This helps a lot.

08-21-2004, 02:26 AM
Don't use somebody's commercial without a written agreement, you will probably get sued. Commercials involve lots of money, and they are lots of licensing fees involved. If you can't avoid showing the commercial, prepare to pay license fees as the ad agency will not give it away for free - they have to pay residuals to actors/musicians/music publishers/etc for each time it is shown publicly, even if they don't know about it. (if you don't know already, license fees for commercial advertisements are pretty much the highest they can get) An exception to public displays would be competitions for awards.

Some editorial uses are also okay, like hard news, but sometimes soft news is not okay. So it is pretty much neccessary to check with a media lawyer and the ad agency to see what you can do. Otherwise, you may find yourself in a VERY large lawsuit.

As for the television stock news footage, as far as I know most of the big networks and some cable news, i.e. CNN, have departments set up for this. ABC News advertised a whole lot aout their stock footage library in some of the industry magazines a while back, especially in The Independent if I remember correctly.

good luck

08-27-2004, 03:04 PM
Thanks, much appreciated.

10-07-2004, 10:19 PM
In a narrative film for entertainment purposes, if you have a rapist drinking coke without a product placement license you might get sued.

If however you're using the commercial or news footage in a documentary for the purposes of commentary on the product, or as an example of marketing tactics, you should be protected by the "fair use" law. It is possible that the company might try to sue you, but hey, anyone can sue you for anything. But the suit probably won't hold up in court if you are truly using it for commentary. Case in point "Out Foxed." None of the Fox News broadcasts were licensed by the filmmakers. Of course had Rupert Murdoch or Fox News decided to sue, it would only draw more attention to a film that I'm sure they don't want put in the spotlight.

I wouldn't worry about it. Cut the film the way you want, and if you have concerns, screen it to a lawyer. But don't go asking permission from a major corporation to use their commercials. Of course they'll say no. But if it falls under the fair use priveleges you should be fine.