Are trailers copyrighted? Is it allowable to freely use a movie trailer in one's own works or website?

Here is a screenshot of an example where they had given the name of the publisher and an amazon.com link to sell the movie. The application references Walt Disney Pictures and is linked to this Amazon page. Is this a fair usage?

enter image description here

  • 5
    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because this question is specifically asking for legal advice, which is off topic.
    – Catija
    Commented Sep 9, 2016 at 10:59
  • 4
    not too off topic. Commented Sep 9, 2016 at 11:22
  • I tried to improve the question a little, based on what I think you seem to be asking.
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Commented Sep 9, 2016 at 13:02

2 Answers 2


Yes, essentially all produced art is copyrighted simply by being created.

Is it fair use? I am not a lawyer, but in the US "fair use" covers typically low fidelity reproduction for the purposes of parody, criticism, news or education.

However, on one hand publishers want trailers to be distributed as widely as possible because people being interested in the movie makes them money, especially if you direct traffic to a legal purchase method.

On the other hand, Disney is known for being very protective of its IP and may decide to send you a cease and desist, which you would be wise to comply with. If you make significant income from your use of their property you may also find yourself sued for royalties.


Bruce Calvert found the definitive answer:

The defence of 'fair use', where reporters or teachers use copyrighted material for socially valuable purposes, does not apply to movie trailers.

Take note in your risk calculations that is was in fact Disney that was the winning party in that case.

  • if we are focused on "education" can we call it fair use. Even we are selling it for profit ? Commented Sep 9, 2016 at 10:21
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    IANAL, but there's nothing that will stop Disney bringing a lawsuit if they want to, unless you have agreed a license with them. An education fair use example would probably be as part of a University Film Studies course. If you don't know, you need to ask a lawyer.
    – OrangeDog
    Commented Sep 9, 2016 at 10:26
  • I understand that they can always sue me even if i show their trailer with a sales link in Amazon.com. It is unlikely but it is possible. It is a risk i guess in business Commented Sep 9, 2016 at 10:42
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    Making a profit off of it is going to likely increase your odds of getting sued and seriously hurt any fair-use defense.
    – KutuluMike
    Commented Sep 9, 2016 at 11:56
  • I highly disagree with that final quote. Everything qualifies for fair use, if it meets the four tests for it. It's just that specific usage, repackaging trailers completely just to advertise that's not fair use.
    – cde
    Commented Sep 9, 2016 at 23:20

Yes, they are copyrighted. The precedent-setting case was filed by the Walt Disney company, so you should definitely get their permission first.

See Trailers are not ‘fair use’ of movie copyrights

On the other hand, I have heard that very old trailers, say earlier than the 1970s, were never issued with a copyright notice and are usually Public Domain. However, I cannot find a page on the Internet to confirm this.

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    A work is still copyrighted regardless of whether there is a notice. It's only in the Public Domain if a PD license was issued, or if the duration has expired.
    – OrangeDog
    Commented Sep 9, 2016 at 17:12
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    @OrangeDog: was that the case prior to 1970? Commented Sep 9, 2016 at 17:19
  • @SteveJessop look up the relevant jurisdiction in the table at the link I just gave.
    – OrangeDog
    Commented Sep 9, 2016 at 17:21
  • Ooh, there's some text on there suggesting that in the US it's the ratification of the Berne convention in 1989 that ended the requirement to explicitly claim copyright in order to hold a US copyright. So presumably what Bruce is saying is that prior to the 1970s, movie studios commonly failed to do that and (he further claims) therefore do not hold a copyright on the trailers issued without doing so. Commented Sep 9, 2016 at 17:26
  • "The Berne Convention specifically forbids (in article 5) that a member country can require any formality for getting copyright protection. In 1989, the Berne Convention became effective in the U.S., and from that moment on also U.S. authors automatically obtained copyright on their works" Commented Sep 9, 2016 at 17:27

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