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Since it's believed to be in the public domain, is it legal for me to sell my work with the audio in it?

Houston, TX |

I'm interested in using a portion of this video's audio in a song I'm producing, and plan on selling it on a CD. It says it's in the Public Domain, but then it also says to license the video I need to contact someone.

Link to video, and information:

Attorney Answers 5

  1. Best answer

    "Public Domain" is a legal term of art. Just because something says that its public domain does not necessarily mean that it is and its unlicensed use may lead to a legal action filed against you. Consult with an entertainment attorney to advise you.

  2. You need a license to use this---otherwise you could face a significant law suit. You might be able to argue that your are engaging in fair use, but I doubt it.

  3. As you say, the post says "To license this film and get a higher quality version for broadcast/film purposes, contact . . . ." Therefore, it appears you probably need a license to do what you are thinking. If you believe your project may be protected by the fair use provisions of the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. 107, then you need to consult counsel first to discuss that. The fair use doctrine is complex. Even if one believes their use is properly "fair use," it could cost alot to defend that position in court. See e.g. Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, 510 U.S. 569 (1994).

    This post is for general informational purposes only. No attempt is made to provide legal advice.

  4. Licenses are cheap, litigation is expensive. Licenses are usually easy or compulsory, litigation usually is hard and optional. Licenses give a certain successful result while litigation gives an uncertain and risky result. Licenses make you "official" while litigation brands you as a"cheat". Licenses allow you to relax while litigation makes you sweat. If you get a license you are in business while if you get litigation you will likely be out of business.

    Your choice. Choose wisely.

    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.

  5. Asker, This website is for general questions, and not for material-specific guidance. That being said, did you bother to click on the "Public Domain" link to see what if means? If you had, you would see that the "legal tool" in question has been retired by Creative Commons.

    Also, in looking at the "A/V Geeks" site, it is unclear whether Skip actually has the rights needed to further license the works OR just has possession of the films in question (and believes he has the right to exploit the works because he found and purchased the reels in his possession, which is not the case). If you choose to proceed, proceed with extreme caution (and an attorney to help you)!

    Any answer or other information posted above is general in nature and is not intended, nor should it be construed, as legal advice. This posting does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and the posting attorney, and you are urged to engage a qualified attorney who is licensed to practice in the relevant jurisdiction.

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