Licensing Archive Footage 101: 5 terms you need to know

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At first glance, the process of licensing copyright-protected footage from archive sources is not very different from reaching any other legally-binding arrangement. However, negotiating and setting the terms of a licensing deal always requires a full understanding of all the rights, obligations, and details concerning the use of the archive footage on both sides of the agreement. The following examples of licensing terminology can be found in almost every license negotiation between an archive footage provider and a content creator.

Licensing rights – every licensing deal is based on agreeing upon a set of condtions and  rules according to which the obtained footage can be used in production and later in distribution. These include the rights for specific media, geographical territories, duration, exclusivity, third parties involved and costs. Naturally, certain licensing rights would cost a lot more than other: worldwide or multiple media use for example. It is crucial for every production to set its commercial and distribution goals in advance because these will always affect the scope of required rights in the licensing agreements with the archive providers. 

Right holders –  put simply, these are the owners of the rights to use or license the footage. This doesn’t always have to be the creator. Since the creation of audio-visual material involves multiple people, the rights can be transferred or shared among many parties. It’s important to know that copyrights are applied differently according to different territorial jurisdictions which could greatly overcomplicate the process of clearing the rights when international right holders are involved. It can be truly a daunting task but Archive Valley’s community of professional Archive Researchers (in over sixty countries!) can always help you navigate the complex world of footage licensing.  

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Third party – this term describes any indirectly involved actors who could claim certain rights to the footage. A good example would be an artist whose music can be heard in the licensed footage. The not-so-apparent role of the third-party can sometimes present the licensee with a lot of problems and unexpected costs. All the obligations to any third-party side should be explicitly made clear in advance. 

Royalty-free – a form of licensing giving the right to use copyright protected material by paying a single flat rate for almost all uses. It allows the footage to be used freely without limitations of the times used, the duration, the type of media or the regions of distribution. Using royalty-free footage for budget optimization is always a great idea – you can read more on the topic of the best ways to optimize your archive footage budget in our special blog post here.

Creative Commons (CC) Licence – a public copyright license originally created in the USA and currently legally applicable in more than 50 countries around the world. Under certain conditions, it provides free of charge rights to use and distribute the material. It’s important to know that there are several different forms of CC. Some of them allow free commercial use if proper attribution and credits are given to the copyright owner. Any footage labeled CC0 or public domain can be used freely with no restrictions or permissions whatsoever. In one of our next blog posts, we will be exploring in details the different sources of public domain footage and archives, so stay tuned!

If you have questions for us on how archive footage licencing works, you can contact us here. We’re happy to learn about your project and see how Archive Valley can help!

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