Let’s say your company is featured on TV and you have a VHS copy of the program. You want 100 copies to send to potential clients. Television and radio broadcasts are protected by copyright laws. A copyright gives the owner of the material the power to determine how the material will be used and/or distributed. Duplicating it without permission is illegal. You should contact the owner of the copyright for permission to copy the video.

Once you obtain a letter from the copyright holder stating that you have permission to make a specified number of copies, you can proceed. If you had only needed one copy of the segment about your company, you could have made it legally without written consent under the Fair Use Rule.

Fair Use Rule provides for a limited amount of copying (both in terms of length of material and number of copies) for purposes such as educational or archival. There is a fine line between what is ‘fair’ and what is considered to be an infringement on the copyright, so each instance needs to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

Once the copyright has expired, the material becomes Public Domain and anyone is free to use the material. To check if material is protected by copyright, you can visit the US Copyright Office website:

Copyright laws vary by state and country of registration. You should consult a copyright lawyer to sort things out.

Before sending in a mater for duplication, remember to check for the following:

  • Is there a copyright notice (word or symbol?)
  • Is it in the Public Domain?
  • Does it fall under Fair Use Rule?

Generally, if you or your company did not directly produce the material, or if you are not in the video, most likely it will be illegal to copy it without permission. To avoid problems, make sure you copy right not wrong!