Who said case law is boring? My all-time favorite actor, Jimmy Stewart, and my favorite Hitchcock film, Rear Window, showed up in a court case that popped up in my first attempt to browse the U.S. Copyright Office’s Fair Use Index at http://copyright.gov/fair-use/ .
The Fair Use Index introductory webpage says “Fair use is a longstanding and vital aspect of American copyright law.” It can be confusing, too!
My ancestor’s cavalry unit was involved in the Atlanta Campaign during the American Civil War, so is it OK insert part of a scene from David O. Selznick’s movie, Gone With the Wind, into my Ancestor Story video and post it on YouTube? If not a good idea, why not? Or could it fall under Fair Use? While using this database won’t answer specific questions on whether you should or shouldn’t use copyrighted media in your family history movie, it can help give some understanding on how courts have applied the Fair Use principles.
The index doesn’t have a powerhouse search function, but it does allow you to browse and filter cases by jurisdiction and category (e.g. Film/Audiovisual, Unpublished, Photograph, Music, Computer Program and more). The index is not comprehensive and only shows the case decisions from the highest court level.
Of course, if you are really trying to find out if your specific use of a digitized photo or film footage falls under Fair Use, consult an intellectual property attorney.
If you are using images or other media that are in the public domain you don’t have to worry about Fair Use. I invite you to take a look my new eBook, Share Your Genealogy Research with Video, to learn about ways to find public domain images to bring your ancestor’s stories to life.
You can get started now with creating a short family history movie by downloading a free 2 Tools pdf worksheet here.
Photo credit: Pixabay.com