Do I need permission to use a magazine in a movie?

Asked over 1 year ago - Oakland, CA

Today I had a small part in a movie where I played (as a satire) a Jehovah's Witness. In that shot, dressed in black slacks, white shirt and tie, I held up a printout of the first page of their magazine "Awake" along with the bible, just like they do when they come to your door. I got the printout from their website (with no restrictions I can find) . The magazine is also something they either sell or give away. Will there be any problem using this as a prop? I'm sure we can blur the title if need be but would prefer not.

Attorney answers (4)

  1. Glen Nuttall

    Contributor Level 10


    Lawyers agree

    Answered . If Trey Parker can get away with using LDS texts, etc. as props (and title!) of his "Book of Mormon" Broadway show, I think you can get away with briefly using a page from Awake while acting as a Jehovah's Witness.
    On a more lawyerly note - there's always a risk of a lawsuit alleging copyright infringement. Maybe the Jehovah's Witnesses are more litigious than the Mormons. But you've got great arguments that your use is a fair use, considering you characterize it as a satire (use for parody can be fair use under the law). Besides, I get the feeling that you aren't making a big-budget, major studio, worldwide-release film, so they may not even notice.

    (949) 390-2717 - Of course there's more to it! Plus, we don't have an attorney-client relationship. This brief... more
  2. Pamela Koslyn

    Contributor Level 20


    Lawyer agrees

    Answered . Agreed. You pretty much have to have these props to do an authentic impersonation of a Jehovah's Witness.

    Avvo doesn't pay us for these responses, and I'm not your lawyer just because I answer this question or respond to... more
  3. Elizabeth Surette

    Contributor Level 5


    Lawyers agree

    Answered . I agree with my colleague above. Also, your plan could raise an issue of trademark tarnishment. Only your trademark attorney can tell you whether or not you would be covered by nominative fair use or parody.

    No communication made on or any of its affiliates, whether directly to an individual or indirectly, shall... more
  4. David Lawrence Berke

    Contributor Level 6

    Answered . I think you should be safe, given the doctrine of "fair use." I'd be a lot more concerned about whether or not the movie was funny and/or entertaining.

    Professional Rules of Ethics require me to advise you that this is an offer of possible representation.

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