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How to Bring Hollywood to Your Business Materials without Violating Copyright

How to Bring Hollywood to Your Business Materials without Violating Copyright Miles McNamee
In the increasingly wired workplace, video can serve as one of our most effective communication tools. While, historically, visuals have served a critical business role in aiding the persuasion process and improving retention, using video and film content adds an unmatched level of excitement to business presentations. Popular video scenes can convey important ideas, generate enthusiasm and draw attention to your products, services, internal values and corporate objectives.

But while more businesses and their employees grow skilled enough to embed movie and TV scenes creatively into business materials, these activities also raise the potential for copyright infringement. In many cases, well-intentioned employees are unaware of the infringement risks or how they can obtain the required permissions to share the content more responsibly.

With these copyrighted materials finding their way into more and more corporate materials, let’s take a look at why film and TV scenes have become so popular in business, how organizations are using the content, and what your company can do to mitigate the associated copyright infringement risks.

Now Playing: An End to Boring Presentations

So, what has helped to ignite the increased demand for video in the workplace? Just take one fresh look at a scene from a movie like Gladiator or Braveheart, and you should quickly understand how much value emotional and entertaining movie and TV scenes can add to text (employee training content and internal company presentations, for example). Even more so than standard visuals, video has the unique ability to enhance PowerPoint or Keynote presentations by boosting audience engagement and attention.

According to Becky Pike Pluth, author of the book 101 Movie Clips that Teach and Train, movie scenes serve as effective training and presentation tools because they make it easier for learners to “understand, recognize and analyze a particular topic, issue or emotion.”

Movie and TV scenes are also versatile. They come in a variety of sensibilities — humor, drama, slapstick — from an array of sources. There’s something for everyone, and that flexibility lends itself to a clear list of uses for video in the workplace.

Put simply, the workplace finds movie and TV scenes a great way to make a point. Few visuals can convey conviction like Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry. Or, think of the impact that an SNL Weekend Update segment can have in translating business-relevant news into entertainment. Then there are TV shows like The Office that capture the essence of seemingly mundane workplace issues, while raising their profile comedically.

Copy and Paste. Repeat. The Wrong Approach to Using Dirty Harry

With the workplace value of video so obvious, our organization, Copyright Clearance Center, set out to identify how businesses can continue to use and share this engaging content while still adhering to copyright requirements. Our survey of Fortune 500 training professionals, summarized in the accompanying infographic (below), revealed some interesting trends in workplace video consumption.

As we know, video is popular. Nearly 50 percent of our survey respondents said that employees use videos for business purposes monthly and, in many cases, weekly. Topping the list of video use cases by employees were in-house training and company meetings and other similar internal events. The survey showed other popular uses to be customer presentations, corporate websites and intranets.

While those results reaffirm our position on the value of workplace video, they also give a clearer picture of why copyright infringement is such an unfortunate and rampant byproduct. Although many respondents noted that they typically obtained content through legitimate channels, such as company databases or paid suppliers, more than a quarter, 27%, said their organizations copy and paste YouTube links into presentations regardless of who uploaded the videos. Another 17% said co-workers copy movies from DVDs or other physical media to their workplace desktops.

These findings depict the grim reality that your company’s usage of movie and TV content may well violate the copyrights of others. In fact, 42% say most employees use videos without ever thinking about requesting rights to do so. Maybe, just maybe, they don’t know who to ask.

Taking Steps to Protect Your Organization

Protecting your organization starts with educating employees about video usage and copyright protection. While short homegrown videos on YouTube and other social sites are created for sharing, movies and TV shows are created for distribution through paid channels. Sharing scenes from these requires permission and, in the online ecosystem, that distinction can elude users. (They may just think that every scene on YouTube or on Google is free to use and share for any business purpose.) This is why education is so imperative. Employees need to understand these important distinctions—the risks to your company can be significant not only in legal costs but also in damage to its reputation.

In addition, the tools to embed and share movies and videos easily have evolved faster than many companies can respond with ways to recognize their risk, set up protocols and inform employees about their responsibilities and best practices. Nearly three quarters of our survey respondents (71%) said employees at their company don’t know how or where to obtain the rights to use videos. Close to one half agreed that employees use videos without ever considering obtaining rights.

These results point to critical facts that need to be driven home to ensure we all can continue to blend a bit of Hollywood into our business materials. For detective Harry Callahan to make your day — or your presentation —you need permission from Warner Bros. to use scenes from the movie Sudden Impact. Similarly, at first glance, The Office may seem organic to the Internet since its episodes were among the first shows downloadable from the iTunes Store and broadcaster NBC aired 10 online-only webisodes in 2006. Yet, using scenes featuring the folks from Dunder Mifflin requires approval from copyright owner NBC.

Though your employees may still be unsure about how to adhere to these copyright requirements proactively, proper licensing and education can ensure that your organization takes the steps to be responsible in sharing and consuming content. Let’s work together to ensure that the synergistic relationship between Hollywood and business continues into the next decade and beyond.

Learn more and watch CCC's latest video, Copyright & Videos at Work

Miles McNamee joined Copyright Clearance Center in 2008 as Vice President, Licensing and Business Development, overseeing business development efforts and licensing of all CCC products and services.  He works with rightsholders to create...

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