Inspired by this question on SciFi&Fantasy.SE. The background is that Terry Farrell, an actress on the series Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, left the show on bad terms after the sixth season. The following year, the series finale featured several montages of clips from old episodes, but Farrell's character was notably absent, despite her long involvement with the show.

When asked about the reasons for this, pretty much everyone agrees that it was a matter of permission; they needed Farrell's permission to use the clips, and couldn't get it. In the words of Ronald D. Moore, one of the show's main writers:

In order to use a clip of someone from a previous episode, you first have to obtain permission from the actor in question.

I'm inclined to take Moore at his word, since he is involved in the industry and I am not, but I was surprised to read this; I would have thought the studio would retain full rights to use their old episodes in any way they see fit.

So, I was hoping Law.SE could help clarify my understanding. What legal grounds (if any) are behind this requirement?

Aside: since I have only a passing familiarity with the legal profession, plain English explanations of any citations is greatly appreciated

  • 1
    This may not be so much a matter of law as a matter of what's in the "standard contract" in the TV industry. I expect that if I wanted to sign all a contract that allowed Paramount Television to use my likeness in any way they saw fit until 2050 in exchange for $1, there wouldn't be a legal issue per se; but any competent agent/lawyer would advise me against signing such a contract. Commented Sep 16, 2016 at 19:55
  • @MichaelSeifert I'd consider that a decent answer if it were supported Commented Sep 19, 2016 at 17:02
  • I'm not sure, but it could be possible that she copyrighted her self. As in, any image of her belongs to her and she allowed the broadcasting company a limited license to distribute her image. When she didn't want them to include clips of her, she revoked the license.
    – SGR
    Commented Sep 27, 2016 at 12:29
  • 2
    @SGR: That simply isn't how copyright works. Under the Berne Convention (and the national laws which implement it), you get a copyright when something is "fixed in a tangible medium" such as paper or film, and then it belongs to the person who created the work (or their employer, with additional caveats not relevant here). You cannot "copyright yourself" in any jurisdiction I've ever heard of.
    – Kevin
    Commented Oct 26, 2016 at 5:47

1 Answer 1


This is the result of a contractual term in the standard agreement for TV actors: http://www.documentary.org/feature/fair-use-reuse-and-lawsuits (see section 'CLIPS WITH ACTORS').

Generally speaking, TV actors do not own copyright in the film in which they appear. The actor does not make the film and so the actor does not get copyright.

However, the standard agreement for a TV actor contains a clause requiring the studio to get the actor's permission to re-use the film for another purpose (such as creating a nostalgic montage in a later season). If such permission is not obtained then the actor can sue the studio for breach of contract.

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