Special Occasion Videos
Motion pictures are protected by copyright and making unauthorized copies is a violation of the law. This protection is not just for the complete 'movie' but also applies to clips or excerpts taken from a motion picture.
To help understand the legalities, check the following questions and answers:
Q. I operate a full-service video productions business specializing in weddings, graduations, bar mitzvahs and other special occasions. For special effects, I often use short excerpts from Disney Classic films such as "Beauty and the Beast", "Cinderella", "Aladdin" and "Fantasia" which I add into the special occasion video by copying a small portion. Is this legal?
A. No. Under the Canadian Copyright Act films are protected as copyrighted works and only the copyright owner can permit or grant a licence to any person to duplicate or reproduce the film or any substantial part thereof. Such reproductions constitute copyright infringement pursuant to Section 27(1) of the Copyright Act. Moreover, the use of such clips for a commercial purpose is also prohibited pursuant to Section 42 (1) of the Copyright Act, the summary criminal provisions of the Act.
Q. By including a short (one or two minute) excerpt from a copyrighted film into a wedding video, I do not feel that I have done anything illegal as the Copyright Act defines "copyright" as the sole right to produce or reproduce the work or "any substantial part thereof". Is one or two minutes of a copyrighted film a "substantial part thereof"?
A. Yes. The Copyright Act does not define "a substantial part thereof" The case law which has interpreted this phrase is, however clear. The test of when a clip constitutes a substantial part of a film is both qualitative and quantitative. If the scenes in the clips are recognizable as originating from the copyrighted work, such clips will constitute a "substantial part thereof".
In a famous case involving infringement of a musical work,
bars of the song were found to be sufficient to constitute a
portion of the entire song since the three bars were the integral
of the song. Similarly, clips from a film which are recognizable will
sufficient to violate these provisions of the Copyright Act.
A. The customer is not in a position to request that you include the clip from "Sleeping Beauty" in the wedding video. When a person buys a copy of a film, he or she merely owns the physical copy of that film. Ownership of that copy does not entitle a person to reproduce, or have others reproduce the film or portions thereof. By analogy, a person that buys a book is not entitled to make copies of that book.
Moreover, the customer is also not in a position to indemnify you from the consequences of infringement. You personally would still be subject to civil proceedings. Should the copyright owner proceed under the criminal provisions of the Copyright Act, no indemnity would apply.
Penalties for infringement
© Canadian Motion Picture Distributors Association (CMPDA), 2006. All rights reserved.