YouTube is filled with long, thoughtful, detailed, insightful (to varying degrees) discussions of various cinematographic topics, techniques, and individuals. They might explore the mechanics of lighting and filming, or scripting cadence, or dialog (or lack thereof) for example.

They often contain clips from recent or classic films well longer than a few seconds, and YouTube has built-in copyright detection algorithms that often blocks videos containing copyrighted content.

Question: What is the mechanics of getting hold of scenes from movies to make YouTube videos about them, and getting permission to use the material?

  • 2
    The mechanics are that the rights holders don't give a hoot about videos that aren't monetised and they don't give a hoot about analysis videos that contain clips.
    – Valorum
    Commented May 7 at 23:34
  • 1
    @Valorum In the past even big channels like RLM and YMS have had problems with videos that merely use the trailer of a movie.
    – BCdotWEB
    Commented May 7 at 23:49
  • 1
    @BCdotWEB - Those channels are monetised and go well beyond mere analysis
    – Valorum
    Commented May 7 at 23:50

1 Answer 1


Getting a copy of the media has a variety of methods, ripping a DVD, obtaining a digital copy etc. so I will not cover those "mechanics" but there are many legal methods which I would assume most users would employ.

However, in the U.S., the usage of sections of the work are covered by the Fair Use doctrine..

How much of someone else's work can I use without getting permission?

Under the fair use doctrine of the U.S. copyright statute, it is permissible to use limited portions of a work including quotes, for purposes such as commentary, criticism, news reporting, and scholarly reports. There are no legal rules permitting the use of a specific number of words, a certain number of musical notes, or percentage of a work. Whether a particular use qualifies as fair use depends on all the circumstances.

Fair Use

  • Thanks. I was originally wondering if there would be something like a 7-second limit, but then I realized that's specifically for sampling music, not some universal limit.
    – uhoh
    Commented May 8 at 8:03
  • 1
    The 7-second limit is a myth. If you use any recording you need to credit it. If you use it as a sample in another piece, you need permission. If you put that up on YouTube then it depends on how fussy the owners are; they can take it down or they can claim part of any monetisation. [A music video has two sets of rights, one for each medium.]
    – Tetsujin
    Commented May 9 at 7:16
  • About "...but there are many legal methods..." could you support that by giving at least one example? Does one write to the studio and ask for digital copies? Streamed and prerecorded (e.g. DVDs for movies of that period) all have anti-copy features and/or warnings about making copies. I really can not think of a single legal way to get a clip from a movie into a computer file where it can be edited into a YouTube upload. I think just hand-waving "...there are many legal methods..." without an example essentially sidesteps the question.
    – uhoh
    Commented May 9 at 22:13
  • 1
    So called anti-copy warnings are for the whole movie and do not invalidate the "fair use" component of the answer. As long as the whole movie is not copied and reproduced you're probably fine.
    – Paulie_D
    Commented May 9 at 22:40

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