One of the first lessons I was ever taught as an early-career filmmaker was this: never use another artist’s work without seeking the proper approvals first. This goes for everything from stock imagery, to YouTube footage, archival material, animation, art, music – even a capella renditions of famous songs!
In fact, many moons ago Mike and I were filming with a participant for one of our documentaries when the participant burst into a version of Take Me Home, Country Roads by John Denver. It was poignant and touching and, thankfully, we caught it on camera. We knew before we even watched the footage back that it would end up in the film.
After the interview, we started thinking – maybe we could licence the original song and include that in the film as well. So we investigated …and thank goodness we did! It turns out we’d actually have to pay a license fee to use the participant’s take on the song too.
Phew – close one!
Why am I telling you this story?
Because if we had bypassed that step and distributed the film without all the correct legal permissions, we could’ve been facing some serious copyright infringement penalties. We might even have had to can the documentary entirely. Yep – you read that correctly. All that work disintegrated over a little legal loophole … can you imagine!
The thing is, many filmmakers spend months, even years, mapping out shoots, conducting interviews and piecing their documentary together. But they don’t know the ins and outs of the legal aspects of their production.
Which is why I thought it was time to talk about it on the Moonshine Moonshot series. The last thing I want is for you to make an awesome moving picture, only to find out right at the end that you can’t distribute it because you didn’t secure the necessary rights and permissions.
So let’s find out how to protect yourself and your film from any copyright infringement.
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