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Kenny Williams

Using Blockbuster in a film

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I am producing a student short this summer, and it takes place in the late 90's. I was wondering if anyone could point me in the direction to see if we can use blockbuster. I've spoken to a few copyright lawyers the ones I can get to call me back, and they said since it is out of business we should be ok but they aren't sure. Does anyone know where I can go or who can talk to and find out for sure?

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I am producing a student short this summer, and it takes place in the late 90's. I was wondering if anyone could point me in the direction to see if we can use blockbuster. I've spoken to a few copyright lawyers the ones I can get to call me back, and they said since it is out of business we should be ok but they aren't sure. Does anyone know where I can go or who can talk to and find out for sure?

 

If you refer to the video rental business I'd be careful. Apparently there are still some franchised stores left in operation around the US: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blockbuster_LLC#2011.E2.80.93present:_Kelly_era.2C_bankruptcy

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I am producing a student short this summer, and it takes place in the late 90's. I was wondering if anyone could point me in the direction to see if we can use blockbuster.

 

By the way - will this be a visual reference or a verbal one? And will this be shown anywhere outside of a classroom? If not, I really wouldn't bother with all sorts of clearances.

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Very few lawyers will agree in this area. It's basically a 'maybe' situation because it depends on what you intend to USE their image for. Even if it's still an active company and still in use a trademark (which it is), that does not mean that you always have to get permission from them to use it. So much depends on how you use it. If it's just a casual reference like 'we are going to blockbuster', and you don't paint them in a bad light - then this would most certainly be fair use under my understanding of fair use. However, it's a whole other ballgame if your movie takes place entirely within a blockbuster store or uses their branding and trademarks as a central part of the movie.

 

You really need to get with a good IP attorney and explain to them exactly what you intend to use their trademark for. They should then be able to better explain rather you need permission or not.

Edited by Landon D. Parks

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Whatever you do, do not claim "free advertising". That can get your in more trouble than what you started with.

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By the way - will this be a visual reference or a verbal one? And will this be shown anywhere outside of a classroom? If not, I really wouldn't bother with all sorts of clearances.

Yes it will be screened in a theater and submitted to festivals, but it is a mention of it a character needs to return a movie to blockbuster and holds up the vhs case with the logo.

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Is Blockbuster key to the story? If not, invent the name of a video rental store and paste on the box.

Edited by JD Hartman
  • Upvote 1

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What JD said is your best bet. It doesn't appear that Blockbuster is really essential to your story, and the easiest way to ensure you don't run into any trouble is to avoid using trademarks if at all possible. In some cases if you don't get the correct clearances you won't be able to get E&O. Best to just invent something like most movies do.

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