Music should always be licensed (unless you are making a documentary about music). I always recommend getting "buyout" or "royalty-free" licenses where you pay a single fee and license the music worldwide in perpetuity. There are many companies on the web that provide these services, and their quality and prices vary widely. So I would suggest having your producer, editor, or assistant do a Google search of "buyout music" or "royalty-free" music and investigate prices and quality. Most producers and editors are familiar where they can get such music.
Photographic images (and film clips) taken from a photo archive library, like Getty Images, is very problematic. This is because even if you are protected by Fair Use, they will still try and challenge it on Fair Use grounds based on the fact that you are using the full copyrighted work (not just a portion) and that licensing their photos is their main business. So I would urge you never to take a photo from a company that licenses photos as their business (even if you think it should be protected by Fair Use). They are also known for policing the internet for violators of their copyrighted photographs. As with music, there are stock photo sites that will let you buy out the use of a photo for all territories in perpetuity. If you buy in bulk, like 100 or more at a time, the photos that you download and use can be as cheap as a dollar each. www.iStockphoto.com is one such site. There are many others, and some of them are free.
Since your use is presumably for noncommercial purposes (which means not for advertising or promotion), you do not need their permission. In other words, the "right to publicity" only applies for "commercial uses," which means advertising and promotion (you are allowed to make a profit on a noncommercial use). Still, certain celebrity estates, such as for Fred Astaire, Marilyn Munroe, and Elvis Presley, are known to be litigious. So using celebrity images is a little more risky for a possible claim than political or business leaders. But in the end, if it is Fair Use, you will prevail.
You should get a standard written release for all individuals that you interview or who speak in your production.
You are not allowed to libel someone (state a false fact about them), invade their privacy, or portray them in a "false light." Be careful of anything negative you say about someone to make sure it is opinion and not libel.
In commercials or expositive productions, like dramatic movies, you have to be concerned with artwork and other copyrighted materials in the background. This is not the case with documentaries, educational productions, and reality shows. It should not be an issue if copyrighted materials inadvertently appear in the background of your shots. But you can not intentionally place copyrighted materials or music in the shot. The safer practice is to avoid reproducing other copyrighted works.
In general, if you are filming in a private location, you should get a location agreement with the owner.
To stay organized, each production should have its own "book." This can be a looseleaf or other binder which contains all of the releases, permissions, and licenses. Ideally, each of these should be referenced to time code in the final master of the production, so that if anyone calls and complains, it can easily be looked up, and the proof that you had permission can be quickly accessed.
Insurance and Legal Review
You should get errors & ommissions policy with a reputable insurance company which covers claims for copyright violations. One of the representations you may make for the insurance policy is that all videos and publications are reviewed by an entertainment lawyer. It is helpful to have an experienced entertainment attorney review any video product before the final edit to spot issues and avoid problems after the final edit has been set and the product is being manufactured or distributed.
You will also want general liability insurance to cover accidents which could occur during production. I would say that general liability insurance is even more important than errors & omissions insurance.
The Center for Social Media, a consortium of filmmakers and others, created a seminal handbook called Documentary Filmmakers' Statement of Best Practices in Fair Use. It is an excellent guide for all documentary and educational producers to use in determining when they can rely on Fair Use. Here is a link to the free handbook:
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