Films, film series and film stars all have warranted websites dedicated to them by fans. There seems to be a level of cooperation among film studios and fan sites – at least, the responsible ones. Movie companies recognize the value of Internet exposure and are eager to take advantage of it: that is as long as they feel that the Internet sites are not taking advantage of them.
There are two basic types of film related fan sites, those devoted to actors and those devoted to films. Film sites are generally run or commissioned by the studios as part of the film’s marketing, whereas sites devoted to a particular actor may be more numerous and run the gamut between small, “one fan” operations to “official” sites set up by the actor or the actor’s representation. This is not to say that all film sites are run by studios, as many very successful films or film series have fan sites devoted to them that are completely independent of the studios.
For example, a fan site on Johnny Depp has photos and screensavers along with the standard filmography and biography – and a fairly active fan forum; almost entirely worshipful. Alternately, the studio-run official film site for “Pirates of the Caribbean” is nicely laid out, featuring still photos, trailers and bios on all the actors along with an active – and moderated – forum. The rules for posting: no profanity, no double posting and no insults directed at other posters. In both cases, the movie and the star get excellent exposure, while negative commentary seems limited to “they could had made a great film better if…”
The Issue of Fair Use
Here it’s worth exploring the notion of “fair use” as applied to film clips, audio bites and other representations taken from commercial movie fare. The law that applies to the use of copyrighted material by independent parties is guided by a principal called fair use. This principal holds that limited use of copyrighted material is permissible for the purposes of “commentary and criticism”.
Fair Use is primarily the concern of the private, non-affiliated fan sites. Studio-run film sites use clips without concern, as the studio that owns the clips is running the site.
Fair Use and the Courts
There have been many lawsuits over this issue and many interpretations of the law. Generally, the less material you lift the less exposure you incur. It has also been held that if you are using copyrighted material without a license, you may not take the “heart” of the product you are lifting from. Neither may you compromise the financial rights of the copyright holder; reproducing content in such a way as the rights holder is denied future commercial gain.
Video Segments Online
That said, the Internet is jammed with video segments lifted from movies. Often, you will find a fan site with film excerpts on it that has an advertisement for an upcoming studio release displayed on the page. The studios understand that these fan pages are the best example of targeted advertising that can be found. While the fan page may be about an actor or actress that has no role in the advertised film, nonetheless people who visit the site are going to be reliable filmgoers.
General Fan Sites
One of the interesting sites dedicated to a film series is the Star Wars Library at http://takeoff.to/starwarslibrary. This site contains no film clips, but instead features fan fiction, parodies, photos, fan art, and articles. There’s a fair amount of thoughtful material on the site, and some hilarious pictures as well: for example, the Krispy Kreme donut wedding cake with Luke Skywalker and the Princess on top, nested in satin hearts. The list of fan sites provided in the Library is broken into categories: movies; actors and actresses; rivalries and relationships; and groups and factions. That is a list of fan sites that should meet any need.