Avoid Copyright Strikes: How to Use Small Movie Clips Legally on Social Media like Youtube and TikTok

4 min readJun 19, 2024


Hey there, fellow content creator! 🎬 Have you ever wanted to use a cool movie clip in your TikTok/Youtube video or social media post, only to be hit with a dreaded copyright strike? You’re not alone. Many creators face this challenge. Today, I’m here to guide you through the minefield of copyright laws and show you how to use those awesome movie snippets legally. So, grab a cup of coffee, and let’s dive in!

Robert K. Bowfinger:
 This film is only for Madagascar and Iran, neither of which follow American copyright law.
Source: https://clip.cafe/bowfinger-1999/this-film-only-madagascar-iran/

Understanding Copyright: The Basics

First things first, let’s get the basics out of the way. Copyright laws are designed to protect the original creators of content. This means that movies, music, books, and even some memes are protected under copyright. Using these without permission can get you in hot water.

However, there are ways to use copyrighted material legally without getting into trouble. Let’s explore those.

Fair Use: Your Best Friend (When Used Correctly)

One of the most commonly misunderstood concepts in copyright law is Fair Use. Fair Use allows you to use copyrighted material without permission under certain conditions. It’s like having a “get out of jail free” card, but only if you use it wisely.

What Counts as Fair Use?

Fair Use is a bit of a gray area, but here are the four factors courts typically consider:

  1. Purpose and Character of Use: Are you using the clip for commercial purposes or educational commentary? Non-commercial, transformative uses (like reviews or parodies) are more likely to be considered Fair Use.
  2. Nature of the Copyrighted Work: Is the work more factual or creative? Creative works get more protection.
  3. Amount and Substantiality: How much of the work are you using? Using smaller, less significant portions is safer.
  4. Effect on the Market: Does your use affect the market value of the original work? If your use could replace the original, it’s less likely to be considered Fair Use.
Japanese Man 1:
 Japanese Man 2:
 It looks like Godzilla, but due to international copyright laws — it’s not.
 Japanese Man 1:
 Japanese Man 2:
 [looks to the camera]
 Though it isn’t.
 [both scream and run away]
Source: https://clip.cafe/austin-powers-in-goldmember-2002/it-looks-like-godzilla-due-international-copyright-laws-its-not/

Practical Tips for Using Fair Use

  • Use Short Clips: The shorter, the better. A few seconds is usually safer than several minutes.
  • Add Commentary or Critique: If you’re adding value by commenting or critiquing the clip, you’re more likely to fall under Fair Use.
  • Transform the Material: Change it up! Adding new meaning or context can help argue for Fair Use.
  • Be Cautious with Music: Using music is trickier. Even a few seconds can cause issues, so tread carefully.

Licensing: Getting Permission the Right Way

If you’re not sure if your use qualifies as Fair Use, consider getting a license. Licensing allows you to use the clip legally, and it’s often simpler than you think.

How to Obtain a License

  1. Identify the Copyright Holder: This could be the studio that produced the movie or a licensing agency.
  2. Contact for Permission: Reach out and explain how you intend to use the clip. Be prepared to negotiate terms and fees.
  3. Consider Stock Footage: Platforms like Shutterstock or Getty Images offer licensed clips that you can use without hassle.

Creative Commons: A Treasure Trove of Legal Content

Another great resource is Creative Commons. This is a licensing system that allows creators to share their work legally.

Finding Creative Commons Clips

  • YouTube: Use the filter option to find videos with a Creative Commons license.
  • Vimeo: Search for videos under the Creative Commons license.
  • Archive.org: A goldmine of public domain and Creative Commons content.

When using Creative Commons content, always check the specific license terms. Some require attribution, while others might have more restrictions.

Using Clips from Public Domain

The Public Domain is like the Wild West of free content. Anything in the public domain is free to use without permission.

How to Find Public Domain Clips

  • Old Movies and TV Shows: Many works published before 1923 are in the public domain.
  • Government Productions: In many countries, works created by the government are in the public domain.
  • Websites like Project Gutenberg: They have a vast collection of public domain works.

Best Practices to Avoid Copyright Strikes

Even with all this knowledge, it’s best to follow some general practices to stay safe.

  1. Always Attribute

If you’re using someone else’s work, give credit where it’s due. A simple acknowledgment can go a long way.

  1. Don’t Monetize Questionable Content

If you’re unsure about the legality of your clip, avoid monetizing it. This reduces the risk of financial repercussions.

  1. Use Platforms’ Built-in Tools

Some platforms, like YouTube, offer tools to check if a video contains copyrighted material. Use these tools to your advantage.

  1. Keep Records

Document your permissions, licenses, and any correspondences with copyright holders. This can help if you ever need to prove your right to use the material.

Conclusion: Play It Safe and Be Creative

Navigating copyright laws can feel like walking a tightrope. But with the right knowledge and practices, you can use movie clips legally and keep your content safe from strikes. Remember, when in doubt, seek permission or stick to Fair Use guidelines.

Stay creative and keep making awesome content! If you have any questions or tips of your own, drop them in the comments. Let’s help each other out!

Happy creating! 🌟