In 2011 I participated in The 48 Hour Film Project
To this day it remains the most challenging and one of the most rewarding filmmaking experiences of my life. One of the rules of the festival was making sure you had clearances for any copyrighted material in your film. Including paintings and photographs.
“But Ron, didn’t you allude to the fact that incidental appearances of copyrights or trademarks might be okay?” That is true. But 1) these weren’t documentaries we’re making, they were narrative pieces of fiction. And 2) the 48HFP distributes the winning films online and internationally. So they’re covering themselves. And in case you’re wondering, no, my film didn’t win. We missed the deadline by 30 minutes because needed to re-export the project.
Stock photos and footage
But it’s just not the use of photographs or paintings as incidental appearances you need to be mindful of. If you’re using them in the video (i.e. you’re dropping the image on your NLE timeline), you need to make sure you have clearances. There are many resources for legally licensing stock photos and footage (e.g. Pond5, Getty Images, Video Blocks, and Shutterstock, to name a few).
There are also plenty of resources to obtain free stock imagery. Sites like Unsplash and StockSnap have utilized Creative Commons Zero licenses. This is the most permissive of the creative commons licenses (see below for the full description of Creative Commons). It’s essentially just one “notch” below the public domain. A CC0 license allows you to use the copyrighted work any way you want. Without the need to even credit the copyright holder. I’ve frequently used Pixabay to find free stock video footage. (Keep in mind, you get what you pay for.)