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"Ethics" in making a "documentary"?


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I am doing a video about the preservation of a species of wild animal being hunted for strictly cultural reasons.  I am trying to be balanced and hope in some small way to shift the thought of the indigenous group involved to look at their future relationship with these creature in a more modern manner.  Some of the footage includes children of this group expressing pride in their culture and joy of nature.  THE CHILDREN ARE NOT celebrating the taking of the animals.  It is public footage, available on the internet, can I use it????? Again trying to show a better future for the indigenous group and the creatures involved.  

Any input welcome!

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Hi, when you say it's "public footage and available on the internet", this doesn't necessarily mean you can use it.  Are you saying it's public footage because you know more about its provenance other than you found it browsing the web?

First you must establish that the footage is under a "Creative Commons License", you must seek the permission of the copyright owner.  It must be said that failure to establish the true copyright owner and grounds for using the footage, is not an excuse to use it in your documentary.  Ignorance is not an excuse and it's most likely to land you in hot water with the owner if you use it without express permission.

Just because it's freely available on the internet, does not mean it's free to use.  Just as posting your photograph on this forum, doesn't mean the artist has given away their rights, it's the same for the material you want to use.  

Additionally, if you see material on a website or in a documentary, and the broadcaster/publisher tells you that the footage is free, beware.  Just because they have been allowed to use it gratis, doesn't mean the same for you.  You must do your due diligence and contact the owner of the material directly and get an agreement in writing.  Again, not being able to establish ownership, is not an excuse to use it without permission.  The copyright owner will be well in their rights to sue you, and they will win should they choose to do so.

Do not be tempted to use it without permission, even if you think it's for a good cause.  The purpose of the documentary will not excuse the use of it without permission and should you be sued, the courts will not take that into account.  

And copyright owners do have a habit of finding out.  I know from using an agency to scan the web to protect my photos and footage.  It's remarkably easy nowadays to discover if someone has stolen your material and take action.  From my experience of making documentaries for nearly 30 years, retrospective agreements are rarely made.  

The only exception to a breach of copyright, would be in the instance of news and current affairs, where someone else's material can be used without permission in a story, but even then, it's always worth getting legal advice.

I hope this helps.

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Thanks for the info!!!! Along the lines of what I thought.   Typically I just stick to shooting animals, landscapes and doing "fun travel" vids for ourselves.  I doubt the photogs who posted to Youtube got model releases or permission to post it but best to leave it alone.  

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