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

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

Posted

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.

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4 lawyers agree

Posted

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.

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2 lawyers agree

Posted

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

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1 lawyer agrees

Posted

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.

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