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FILM 422: Business of Film

Basic definitions and resources for learning more about fair use, public domain, copyright, and licensing. 

Definitions and Considerations


  • Copyright: "Copyright is a form of protection given to the authors or creators of "original works of authorship," including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic and other intellectual works" (
  • Public Domain: Creative materials not protected by intellectual property laws (e.g. copyright)
  • Fair Use: "In its most general sense, a fair use is any copying of copyrighted material done for a limited and “transformative” purpose, such as to comment upon, criticize, or parody a copyrighted work. Such uses can be done without permission from the copyright owner. In other words, fair use is a defense against a claim of copyright infringement" (
  • Option: Temporary contractual agreement between a producer and the author of a source material to provide sole purchasing rights to the producer. 

Considerations and Legal Liabilities for Adapting Text

  • Even if you adapt a public domain text, you can still be held liable for willfuly and deliberately malicious or false representation of a public figure.
  •  You can try to avoid defamation claims with disclaimers (e.g. "Any similarities to people living or dead are coincidental") but it does not exempt you from facing potential lawsuits.
  • Historical facts cannot be copyrighted. Creative expressions of historical facts can be copyrighted.

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