Writing Movie Content

Posting Photos and Videos: Permission, Copyright Issues, Infringement, and Liability

By posting movie pictures and movie videos, some believe they will incur liability, that they need permission or that copyright issues from property ownership comes into play. I have gotten a few emails from readers recently about using photos, movie posters, and movie trailers in posts so I decided to write a post on the subject to give my point of view on the subject and what I have learned over the years. Lets get the major point out of the way first: movie studios want you to promote their films through their officially released movie photos, movie posters, stills, movie clips, and movie trailers. That is why they released them, so the public could see them via you and other movie web site owners.

Movie / TV Photos, Stills, and Video Clips

Any photo that the movie studios do not want you to show to the public e.g. leaked photos, stolen photos, photos derived from something leaked or stolen, you will be eventually notified about and asked to take down.

Alexandra Daddario, Bereavement, 2010, Screaming

Alexandra Daddario in Bereavement

This happened to me regarding this post: Emmy Rossum: Shameless Showtime Photos. Showtime tried contacting me through my email address at my website host but that email address was slightly inaccurate so I did not get the emails. On the third warning the email got to me via my website host, HostGator. Showtime had contact them and threatened to take legal action if certain photos were not removed from my movie website. Hostgator then informed me that they would take my website offline if I did not comply. This was a problem for me because that post and its derivative: Emmy Rossum: Shameless Showtime TV Show Clip were bringing in a couple hundred hits a day each from search engines. I did not want to give that up. After a little back and forth I took the photos down. It was not worth having the entire site shut down over. Then I found out that Showtime had gone around the net and taken similar action on other websites. The photo gallery where I had gotten the photos from had also been forced to take them down. Unfortunately for Showtime, they were not thorough enough. The photos are still up in photo galleries, forums, and the video clip they also ordered us to take down is available for download if you know where to look.

Here is a more positive example. I began posting reviews for Spartacus: Blood and Sand when the show began to air. I began getting a bit of decent organic web traffic because of it. The show was becoming more and more popular every week. I decide to post high resolution pictures from the episodes as well. Sure enough those pictures got the attention of fans but also Starz, the company that owned and broadcast Spartacus: Blood and Sand. A representative contacted me and asked me to take the photos down. By this point I had already posted the Season 1 finale photos: Spartacus: Blood and Sand: Kill Them All: High Resolution Photos and they were very popular – no one else had bothered to do what I had. He told me that I did not have permission to take those pictures and then display them. I explained my position to him rationally and logically: I showed him all the links to all of the reviews for Spartacus: Blood and Sand we had posted. We had reviewed almost every TV episode of the series the day after it aired. I showed him all of the promotional materials we had posted for the series. I showed him our dedication to the series and Starz. He backed off, let us keep up the photos, and now I have a contact person that works within Starz. Those pictures still bring in organic search engine hits to this day.

The point of these two parables: 99.9% of the time you are perfectly safe to post whatever images you like, find or that are sent to you. Big Brother will let you know when something is amiss. You are doing the person or company that took or commissioned the photos a favor. You are advertising their product and/or service for them for free. Why would they be mad or upset about that, especially if your website is heavily trafficked? That is more eyes on their product and/or service.

Movie Posters and Movie Trailers

The above paragraphs holds true for movie posters and movie trailers as well. Movie studios want you to embed and show their movie trailers to the world. YouTube alone hosts millions of them as does DailyMotion, Vimeo, and Trailer Addict. Trailer Addict would not even exist if this was not the case. Their bread and butter i.e. their business model are embeddable movie trailers and movie clips. If there is a problem with a movie clip or trailer as was the case above, 99.9% of the time the aggrieved party will contact the holder of the offending material e.g. YouTube, tell them they are violating their copyright and order them to take down the offending material. Very rarely will they contact the person who has embedded the video. What would be the point? They are not the source. The video file is not contained on their server.

Licenses and Permission

Thumbs UpNo. You do not need a license or special permission from a movie studio to post a photo, movie poster, movie still or a movie trailer. No movie website could operate effectively if this was not the case. Keep in mind though what was said about posting movie photos and posters here: Using SEO Optimized images in your Posts for Increased Pageviews and here: 5 Ways to Optimize Images for Increased Pageviews and SEO.

In Conclusion

Post away. Post those movie photos and trailers until you are blue in the face. You are fine, you are OK. You are not liable for some crime. I hope this post was illuminating, helpful, and answered all of your questions. If it did not, let us know in the comments below. You might also want to check this out: On Posting Pictures – Hotlinking with IMG Tags and Copyright Issues. Do not miss when we post other articles of this nature. Subscribe to us and you will be notified immediately.

About the author

Rollo Tomasi

A Political Science and MBA grad who started ProMovieBlogger to educate others on what he had learned through trial and error. Cinema and TV addict. Former writer at Empire Movies, Blogcritics, and Alternative Film Guide. In addition to writing for FilmBook (http://film-book.com), he also edits the copy published on the website, manages its writing staff, manages the back-end operations, site finances, its social network accounts, and works with publicists, actors, and companies on press coverage and promotions. He also created and runs Trending Awards.com.

  • kmp22

    Great post. At least the companies ask you nicely to take them down. Do you give credit to the images you use? Like (Image Source: starz.com), etc…?

    • ProMovieBlogger

      I give credit to the site where I obtained the photos from.

  • Nice Tips. You cleared my most of the technical doubts. Cheers 🙂

  • eddie

    Great post. I'm thinking about starting up my own movie review site and this cleared up a lot of questions that I had. Thanks

  • tojochiramalgroup

    Hi,
    I own a blog which tells about famous movie quotes with its movie post. I had the same doubt for which your blog already given answer. 🙂 Thanks

  • emma2050

    I want to use pics captured from movies on dvd … on my website /blog is that legal if I make money from it?-Thanks for any advice 🙂

  • mrrumsey

    Man, finally someone actually explaining all of that.
    Thanks you've done me a huge favour!

  • Oskar

    Really great article with just the information I wanted and needed. I'm about to launch a website which will contain cover art for movies, games, music and more. Though I would like some sources for this since I still think it's a little risky.

    Thanks,
    Oskar

    • Glad you liked it.

      What is the website going to be called?

  • Mel

    I was just wondering. Is it legal to edit an official movie poster etc? For example. I am a part of the online Hunger Games fandom and I want to edit some of the posters lionsgate has released. Not to make money, just to post on facebook fan pages.

    • As long as you are not making money money on the altered posters its okay. You are just being artistic with a poster.

  • DarenG

    I would like to point out that it's true most of them don't care if you embed a video or link to a video on your website and Facebook page for example. There is a difference between uploading versus linking (embedding). The reason this is important is because many studios will only allow uploading to your website. If you try for example uploading versus linking a trailer on YouTube they will serve you a copyright infringement notice. They don't want you to drive traffic from their own channel. For example, I have only seen some really big time sites get the rights to upload Disney trailers or Warner Brothers Trailers. Even though I actually have a press account with Warner Brothers, I was served a Copyright strike because I uploaded a trailer on YouTube versus linking to that trailer on the Warner Brothers YouTube page. I would love to find out how to get upload rights on YouTube but so far have been unsuccessful. Probably because I am not big enough yet for them to grant those rights.

    • "The reason this is important is because many studios will only allow uploading to your website. If you try for example uploading versus linking a trailer on YouTube they will serve you a copyright infringement notice."

      Some will serve you with a copyright infringement notice but all.

      "They don't want you to drive traffic from their own channel."

      Very true.

      "I would love to find out how to get upload rights on YouTube but so far have been unsuccessful. Probably because I am not big enough yet for them to grant those rights."

      One "big one" that I have seen get those rights is Movie Clips but their business plan took that into account before they launched, it was no afterthought. They had something to show those companies before asking for those rights.

    • pedrosttau

      Hello Daren, I am facing the exact same issue right now. Have produced a really good series of video movie reviews that work so much better when the trailer is embedded in them. Tried getting in touch with the Movie studios to ask for permission, unsurprisingly never heard back from them.

  • ZeroCooL

    Thank you for this great post. My question is this….i started a review show on youtube…and when i uploaded my video with the movie trailer in it and bits of the trailer again at some points…. youtube did not allow me to monetize that video and wanted me to give copyright permission that i had from the studio that produced the trailer. I would really like to hear your thoughts on the matter!

    • Those bits and pieces of movie trailer are owned by the movie studio that produced them. Be thankful YouTube did not slam your account with a copyright violation. Three of those and your account will be shut down.

  • Hi,

    That’s a very detailed explanation based on the experiences you had. This clears the myth that using a movie poster isn’t a big crime but the next question is, from where can one get these posters? I am scouring the internet for this answer if you have one, would really appreciate if you could share it. Thanks for sharing this article, have a good day.

    – Sri Varshan

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