Can I legally download a movie trailer?

Disclaimer: ALL information containing in my post is for informational purposes only and should never be construed as legal advice. For proper legal advice you should consult a lawyer.

Imagine the scenario if you can, you are a Media Studies teacher. You wish to use some movie trailers in a classroom session, so that the learners can analyse the content and structure of the trailers and compare the features and similarities between each one.

Now you could use a computer suite and each learner could access the relevant movie site and view the trailer online. However this doesn’t really help as the video plays once and sometimes you want to see part of the trailer again and again. Now if only the learners could download the trailer, or even better could the teacher download the trailers and make them available to all the learners via a local network server, so enabling fast and easy access.

Well technically this is possible, however is it legal?

Can I legally download a movie trailer?

There are many tools available online which allow you to download videos from sites such as YouTube (usually through a Firefox extension or similar). They basically “scrape” the code for the video link from the website and then download the video file, providing you with a Flash based FLV file, some tools will convert this on the fly into an AVI or WMV if required.

However this article makes for interesting reading on the legality of doing this.The website in question (which is quite a respected tech blog) had given instructions on how to use video downloading tools to download streaming video from a site such as YouTube.

From the article YouTube states quite clearly that:

Currently, YouTube is a streaming-only service. We do not permit users to download the videos we host on our site. We believe our Terms of Use are clear on this point, but in light of the confusion which came to our attention today we are considering revisions to our Terms of Use to avoid any further confusion. It is important to many of our users who have uploaded and licensed content to YouTube that their content is authorized for streaming-only.

If a site streams a video to you, generally you don’t have the right to download that video as they are only making the video available as a stream.

Media-Convert.com which I have mentioned before, use to do this via it’s web based video conversion service, enter the YouTube URL and before you could say “is this legal” you would have a video in the format of your choice. They were soon stopped from doing this.

So downloading a streamed Flash based video is not an option, what about Quicktime based trailers from the Apple website?

For personal use, I can use Quicktime Pro on a Mac (and on Windows as well). What Quicktime Pro allows you to do is to save a Quicktime video to your hard drive. Once the trailer has loaded onto my computer in the browser I can save a copy to my hard disk for later viewing. I can even download the 1080p HD versions which look very nice even if they don’t fit on my computer screen as it’s too BIG.

Quicktime Pro is not the free video viewer but the paid for upgrade, which is about £12 per license for educational users (it’s £20 for “normal” individuals). There are other things you can do with it as well, I use it for making video and audio recordings on my Mac for example. I have also used it to trim audio recordings and some of the export functionality does make life easier…

Note the term “personal use”, most film trailers online are only available for personal use only. I would be surprised by any movie site which would allow a teacher to download movies for use in the classroom.

Apple in their terms of use for example make it quite clear what you can and can not do with any trailer you download from their website:

…no Content may be copied, reproduced, republished, uploaded, posted, publicly displayed, encoded, translated, transmitted or distributed in any way (including “mirroring”) to any other computer, server, Web site or other medium for publication or distribution or for any commercial enterprise, without Apple’s express prior written consent.

This would mean downloading and distributing it to students in a classroom situation would be viewed as illegal unless you had the permission of the movie trailer copyright owner.

Similar guidance is available on most other movie sites I checked. For example on Warner Brothers website is says:

You may access and display Material and all other content displayed on this Site for non-commercial, personal, entertainment use on a single computer only. The Material and all other content on this Site may not otherwise be copied, reproduced, republished, uploaded, posted, transmitted, distributed or used in any way unless specifically authorized by WB Online.

You could write and ask for authorisation and permission, sometimes this may be given, more often than not it won’t.

Legally students could download their own individual copy for their own analysis. However this may not always be possible, especially if you have network congestion or a slow internet connection.

So is there a solution, well yes, if you go for an alternative solution which is forgot online and go back to broadcasting.

Now an easier way would be to digitally record the trailers from the TV and use digital copies of them. You won’t even need an ERA licence, as the ERA does not cover adverts from the TV. Though if the trailers are part of say a film programme then these programmes probably are covered by the ERA licensing scheme and appropriate action should be taken accordingly.

However if it is an advert, under the Copyright Act you have a statutory right (therefore can not be taken away from you) to show recordings of TV broadcasts for educational purposes.

From the ERA website.

Are there broadcasts I can’t record under the ERA Licence?

Yes, only broadcast material owned or represented by ERA Members is licensed through the ERA Scheme for off-air recording. This means that some contents of certain broadcasts and material included in them, such as advertisements, are not covered by the Licence because ERA Members do not own or control the rights in them.

However, if you record these broadcasts for non-commercial educational purposes, your recordings in the ways relevant to the ERA Licence will not infringe copyright, unless a certified Section 35 licence applies. This is because Section 35 (1) states that where works are not covered by a certified scheme, then educational establishments may reproduce and communicate them electronically on-site without infringing copyright. You will need to adequately acknowledge, i.e. label, any broadcast recordings you make under Section 35 (1).

Also worth look at the ERA restrictions as well.

I have made recording just like this using an EyeTV device on a Mac (I have also used a Windows Media Centre as well, but never again…) I just set the video to record for a few hours (takes GB of space mind you) and then go through the adverts until I find the one I want (or one that’s similar). For movie trailers I would recommend recording the adverts during film programes on ITV or Channel 4, or during films.

If you do have an ERA licence then recording film programmes will help, as some of these will have trailers in them.

My Elgato EyeTV device captures from Freeview so I get a really good quality digital video file, it’s roughly the same quality as DVD. The editing tools make life really easy well to trim and edit the video you need. There are Windows TV Capture devices, some of them are just small USB sticks which slot into any USB port.

Though there are legal barriers that are getting in the way of the learning here, there are also solutions as well.

Photo source.

One thought on “Can I legally download a movie trailer?”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *