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Do I have a case if a MAJOR late night TV show used my footage without my permission?

San Francisco, CA |

I produced a "no budget" comedy that I aired on a local TV station and learned years later that my footage was featured on a major late night show without my permission.
The clips were altered and titles were changed. Is there a case here for infringement?

Attorney Answers 4

  1. Quite possibly. These issues are often quite complex, and you thus should probably contact an IP attorney in your area (there are quite a few in the bay area) and hire one that you like whom you feel will do the job you need them to do.

    The above is not intended to be legal advice, but may be used for general information. Please contact an attorney for specific help tailored to your needs.

  2. No one can provide you with any actionable advice without knowing more facts. Assuming you own the copyright in the video, and registered that copyright with the Copyright Office, then perhaps you have a claim. I assume the late night TV show, however, was a comedy show. If it was and if it used part of your video as satire or parody then it quite likely could do so lawfully under the fair use doctrine without any compensation to you. Which is what they've all been doing for many, many years now. Speak with your own copyright attorney.

    The above response is general information ONLY and is not legal advice, does not form an attorney-client relationship, and should NOT be relied upon to take or refrain from taking any action. I am not your attorney. You should seek the advice of competent counsel before taking any action related to your inquiry.

  3. There is no way to tell without additional facts and information. You should speak with an intellectual property attorney who can review how the late night cable show actually used your footage. The late night show's usage may potentially be a fair use.

    The foregoing response is provided for general informational purposes only and is not a solicitation for business. Please retain an attorney if you need specific legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is established until both you and me agree to establish one, and neither transmission of information herein, nor the receipt of such information, constitutes an agreement to establish an attorney-client relationship.

  4. Probably you have NO case, as most late night show footage is for comedic purposes, for commentary, for parody, or for news reporting. The networks are very savvy on what is fair use and what is not. The fact that the clips were altered and titles were changed suggests that the network lawyers did what was needed to fall within fair use guidelines. You could take your comedy and a tape of the footage shown on Letterman, Leno, Fallon, or whoever to a copyright attorney for a quick consult, but my guess is you would at most be talking about a few hundred dollars in potential damages, and more likely zero damages. That will not make a viable case for copyright infringement, as for that you will need more like a few hundred thousand dollars of potential liability to even consider filing.

    I am not your lawyer and you are not my client. Free advice here is without recourse and any reliance thereupon is at your sole risk. This is done without compensation as a free public service. I am licensed in IL, MO, TX and I am a Reg. Pat. Atty. so advice in any other jurisdiction is strictly general advice and should be confirmed with an attorney licensed in that jurisdiction.