Copyright Question

The Concert Band at my college is going to be putting on a theme concert this weekend, the theme being movie music. We were thinking about setting up a multimedia-type presentation where, as we’re playing the music from a specific movie, stills from that movie are projected onto a big screen above the band.

Is this legal? I would think this would fall under fair use, since an individual still can hardly be considered to be a substantial portion of the work as a whole. On the other hand, it probably matters how many stills are taken from each movie. Suppose we used, on average, 35 stills from each movie? We will be charging admission for the concert ($3), but we are also a non-profit group.

Any ideas on the legality of this?

Hmm…since you’re charging admission I’d say you’d be violating copyright. Also, the movie music is also copyrighted. Technically you’d owe royalties to the composer (or whomever owns the composers rights) as well.

I suspect the movie companies would have a good case if they wanted to sue. They usually copyright stills from a movie separately; if you’re taking them from a book or other materials, it’s a usually copyrighted image.

Screen captures are a gray area. You might try a fair use defense and see if it works. Couldn’t guarantee how the court would rule.

There are also trademark issues: if you show, say, Indiana Jones, Lucasfilms can claim he is a trademarked character and sue you on that basis.

Ultimately, though, it depends on how willing the copyright holder is willing to sue over this. It may not be worth their while and as long as they don’t have their noses rubbed into it, they may turn a blind eye.

In short, there is no clearcut answer.

BTW, I was assuming your college already pays ASCAP fees. If not, you’re in a lot more trouble if you try to perform the music.

Depending on where you’re planning to get these stills from, you might be violating public display licensing. You know that little screen that comes up at the beginning of a video? Part of it (if you read it carefully) says that the video is licensed for private, in-home viewing only.