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Thread: Using Youtube Videos in Independent Documentary

  1. #1

    Default Using Youtube Videos in Independent Documentary

    Hi Forum

    This is my first post, ive tried to do a search but not had any luck. Hopefully im in the right place to have a few questions answered

    I am producing an independent documentary and there are thousands of clips on youtube that id like to consider using. Some by news channels such as CBS and some by independent people, and some independent people aggregating other content.

    I plan so sell my documentary. My question is: Can I use any of this footage and not be breaking copyright laws? I will reference the source, can it be used under a fair usage policy?

    Any help offered is greatly appreciated.

  2. #2


    Fair usage policy is not a catch all to use what ever you want, especially if you intend to sell the documentary. The safest way to go about it is laborious but advisable. Get permission from all the people who made the original videos. When it comes to CBS you'll be lucky if they agree but very unlucky if they find you have used their footage without permission.

  3. #3


    Ok thanks. I was kinda thinking thats how I would have to approach things. My concern is if i get individual youtubers to agree to let me use their footage but in actual fact they appropriated someone else's content to make their own.

    I am also wondering If I am doing my own filming (interview style) with another individual. Do i need him to sign something to say that I am using this footage for a documentary and he will not be paid any royalties from the production?

  4. #4


    In these times of wilful steeling of other peoples work it is sometimes hard to know where the original footage came from, the only thing I would advise is following up where they got the footage from and follow the trail back to source keep records of this and if it did ever get legal you have proof that you made all effort to trace the source to get permission.

    Getting the people to sign some sort of waiver would seem like a sensible thing to do.

  5. #5


    There are rules that take into account whether a subject is irelevant background, main subject, part of the story etc etc. But if uncerain on this, having release forms signed for anything you use, whether this may be people, video's, pictures, graphics and in some cases even locations is a good thing (often a requierment).

    The release form may ony allow use for a certain project on a certain medium, or less common, just free up the footage for any use at any time.

    Having said that, the rules do get stretched and/or ignored regularly, it all depends on how you want to go to market, and if any legal responsibility would be geting taken on by a buyer.

    The last thing you want is to get a great offer for your film with the necessary permissions. Then later find that you can't get them. Relevant bits could maybe be replaced but it could also just be a blown budget.


  6. #6


    In TV, people do this all the time - do you think those who appear on Panorama exposes sign a talent or location release? - But they've got very highly paid lawyers, so can get away with it.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Surrey, UK
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    Quote Originally Posted by BigMac View Post
    In TV, people do this all the time - do you think those who appear on Panorama exposes sign a talent or location release? - But they've got very highly paid lawyers, so can get away with it.
    Having lawyers at their disposal is no doubt very useful - I'm sure that proving these exposés are in the public interest have something to do with it. However, in most cases, I suspect that they "get away with it" simply because the exposed person or organisation would not wish to draw even more attention to their dubious actiities which is exactly what trying to sue for breach of copyright would achieve.

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