This week I had the pleasure of seeing a student who was making a documentary go through the process of determining whether permission was needed to use some film clips from two published films (in one case no and in the other case – hmm not so sure). She decided to ask permission from the filmmaker but wasn’t sure if they would reply before her deadline to complete the film. We discussed a plan B – to use the information in the film and cite it but use voice-over or text over her own filmed footage at a Museum. It was not ideal and certainly would not have had the same impact. We discussed how to cite other people’s work in her film credits and in her write up. The very next day she came into the library with a brilliant smile – the filmmakers had given her permission to use their film. What a great outcome for her and what a delight for me to see a student being encouraged by professional filmmakers.

Students often do not understand or even consider copyright when using content (text, images, video) created by other people. Admittedly it is more difficult in an international setting but almost all countries have some sort of copyright protections and ignorance of the law of the land is no defense.

There is the idea of “Fair Use”. Richard Stim in his blog post for Stanford University Libraries explains Fair Use this way:
” fair use is any copying of copyrighted material done for a limited and “transformative” purpose, such as to comment upon, criticize, or parody a copyrighted work. Such uses can be done without permission from the copyright owner. In other words, fair use is a defense against a claim of copyright infringement. If your use qualifies as a fair use, then it would not be considered an infringement.”
Stim goes on to explain that actually, the word “transformative” is open to different interpretations. There have been times when people thinking they have adapted someone else’s work have been prosecuted for copyright infringement.

I always advise that when in doubt ask permission. Stim, has also written a blog post advising on the basics of getting permission which outlines 6 steps for students to follow. The first two are to see if you need permission and then find out who to ask.

I hope that more students follow this student’s example and experience encouragement from academics, researchers and professionals as they seek to do the right thing.

Works Cited

Stim, R. “The basics of getting permission.” Stanford University Libraries, Accessed 25 Jan. 2019.

—. “What is fair use?” Stanford University Libraries, Accessed 25 Jan. 2019.