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Copyright for Student Filmmakers

This guide provides copyright basics and assists students in properly using copyrighted artistic works.

What is copyright?

“Copyright (or author’s right) is a legal term used to describe the rights that creators have over their literary and artistic works. Works covered by copyright range from books, music, paintings, sculpture, and films, to computer programs, databases, advertisements, maps, and technical drawings.” – World Intellectual Property Organization

Can students use copyrighted materials for class projects?

Generally speaking, using copyrighted works in a class assignment is considered fair use (see below), because the purpose of using the material is educational. The use of copyrighted works for educational purposes is often allowed under the Hong Kong Copyright Ordinance: Fair dealing for purposes of giving or receiving instruction.

However, if an assignment includes posting your works on a publicly accessible website (for example, Facebook or YouTube), that would could be considered a publication and is more likely considered a copyright infringement.

Therefore, you need to consider how you intend to use your film:

  • If you are only producing the film for your assessment and don't intend to share or screen it anywhere else, you generally do not need to seek permission to use copyrighted material.
  • If you want to enter your film in a competition, or share it online, then you must get formal permission of the copyright holders to use their works, and make sure to give them proper credit

What is fair use? What is fair dealing?

In general, both “fair use” and “fair dealing” refer to limitations and exceptions to copyright – cases in which protected works may be used without the authorization of the copyright holder.

In the US, the term fair use is used. Fair use allows people other than the copyright owner to copy a copyrighted work for “fair uses”, one of which being for scholarship and research purpose.

In the UK, and Hong Kong, etc., the term fair dealing is adopted. Fair dealing refers to right granted by copyright laws to reproduce limited portions of copyrighted works without permission, and without infringing the interest of the creator(s) or copyright owner(s). It covers reproduction of published material for criticism and review, non-commercial research, and news reporting.

* Adapted from 'Fair Dealing' - The University of Leeds Library

Disclaimer: The contents in this guide about copyright are for information only. It does not contain or constitute legal advice.