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Film Stills Pre-1969

Posted: Fri Aug 30, 2019 11:54 am
by SusanF
I want to use three film stills from three films, all of which were made before 1969 as illustrations in my book. The films' director, who is Italian, died over ten years ago and I am having trouble contacting/finding out about his estate. Do I need permission to reprint the photos under these circumstances? Or is there anyway around this?

Re: Film Stills Pre-1969

Posted: Fri Aug 30, 2019 1:04 pm
by AndyJ
Hi Susan,

Every still from a film is classed as a separate artistic work, as if they were individual photographs, and since the director died relatively recently, these stills are in copyright. I think you were assuming that. The joint owners of copyright in a film under UK law (see section 9(2)(ab)) are the producer and the principal director. Copyright lasts for seventy years from the end of the year in which the last of them dies. If the producer is still alive, copyright has many years yet to run. If you want to get permission to use the stills, you could try contacting the producer, or more likely, the production company responsible for the film. If it is still proving difficult to locate the producer and/or the production company, you could speak to DirectorsUK, which as the name suggests, is a body which represents British film directors for such things as licensing rights. They will know if there is an equivalent body which represents Italian directors.

However that might not be necessary if the point of using the stills is to enhace a point you are making in your book, as that would fall within the fair dealing exception of being for the purposes of criticism or review, provided that you also acknowledge the source of the images. However if their use is purely illustrative, in that any still would do, rather these specific ones, then I'm afraid that exception won't be applicable, and you will need to get permission.

Re: Film Stills Pre-1969

Posted: Thu Nov 14, 2019 9:46 pm
by Nick Cooper
Productions stills are rarely the work of a film's director. They are normally taken by a studio photographer - or a freelancer - for continuity and/or publicity purposes. Ownership would therefore usually be with the studio or producers, not the director.

Re: Film Stills Pre-1969

Posted: Fri Nov 15, 2019 8:46 am
by AndyJ
Nick is absolutely right. I should have said that each individual frame of the film was classed as an individual work. So, if the images you wish to use are definitely captured from the film itself then my answer is the way to go, but if they are stills taken on the set as Nick described, his answer applies. It is likely that the name of the stills photographer will be recorded somewhere, perhaps by the production company or on IMDB (eg here), if it is necessary to calculate the length of copyright term. Given that the main purpose of stills was for publicity, they may well have been passed to a picture agency for distribution, and therefore if the agency still exists, that would be the best place to obtain a licence.