Copyright in a Nutshell for Found Footage Filmmakers

Found Footage Magazine No. 2

10 Pages Posted: 21 Aug 2016

See all articles by Brian L. Frye

Brian L. Frye

University of Kentucky - College of Law; Dogecoin DAO Legal Scholarship Page; Rug Radio DAO Grifting Division

Date Written: August 16, 2016


Found footage is an existing motion picture that is used as an element of a new motion picture. Found footage filmmaking dates back to the origins of cinema. Filmmakers are practical and frugal, and happy to reuse materials when they can. But found footage filmmaking gradually developed into a rough genre of films that included documentaries, parodies, and collages. And found footage became a familiar element of many other genres, which used found footage to illustrate a historical point or evoke an aesthetic response.

It can be difficult to determine whether found footage is protected by copyright, who owns the copyright, and whether particular uses of found footage infringe copyright, especially in the case of unpublished motion pictures. This article argues that copyright doctrine is unacceptably indeterminate and effectively restrictive in relation to the use of found footage.

Keywords: copyright, found footage, cinema, fair use, orphan works, documentary, motion pictures

Suggested Citation

Frye, Brian L., Copyright in a Nutshell for Found Footage Filmmakers (August 16, 2016). Found Footage Magazine No. 2, Available at SSRN:

Brian L. Frye (Contact Author)

University of Kentucky - College of Law ( email )

620 S. Limestone Street
Lexington, KY 40506-0048
United States


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