In some episodes of Family Guy, clips from old movies and series are used for joke sake. The most famous examples are the clips from Conway Twitty songs (in one episode they included a whole Twitty's song), but there are also other instances.

Does Fox pay copyright for these old clips? Or is it considered fair-use?

  • 1
    Broadcasting someone else's work is never fair use, this is national television, not someone in a bedroom making YouTube videos. They pay for it. How & how much, I've not a clue - that's what licensing & synchronisation departments are there to do.
    – Tetsujin
    Jun 30, 2018 at 16:48
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    @Tetsujin That's just false. Fair use is not based on the size of the audience. Jun 30, 2018 at 22:21
  • @Acccumulation True. As far as enforcing the law, though, it is more likely that a movie studio would take Family Guy to court - especially because they may never find out about an obscure YouTube video with just a few views. (But as I said, they're both breaking the law.) Jul 2, 2018 at 17:01

1 Answer 1


Fair Use in the United States is pretty nuanced and open to interpretation. From section 107 of the Copyright Act:

Courts will balance the purpose and character of the use against the other factors. Additionally, "transformative" uses are more likely to be considered fair. Transformative uses are those that add something new, with a further purpose or different character, and do not substitute for the original use of the work.

Parody is a good example of fair use, though the Copyright Act defines "parody" differently than it defines "satire", and satire is not considered fair use. As I said, it's nuanced.

That being said, Fox most likely paid the copyright owner to guarantee they wouldn't have to defend their use in court (as @Tetsujin said). We'd need to look at a specific instance of reuse from a specific episode of Family Guy.

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