Questions About Films for Home Riffing....

…My wife and I - both LONG time MST fans - have talked about doing our own riffs, and we’ve decided we want to do some of the old ‘educational shorts’. My question here is what kind of legal matters do we need to be looking at before we sit down with one? We’ve spotted several on YT, but we honestly have no idea where to go from there. The last thing we want to do is infringe on anyone’s IP or other rights, but this sort of thing doesn’t pop up well on Google searches.

Any thoughts/comments/rocks with notes attached?


If you’re just doing it for your own entertainment, then there’s no IP issues involved, just go for it.

Now if you’re planning to publish said riffs, probably better to make sure what you’re riffing is public domain. Although, in the US, there’s a stipulation that ‘commentary’ is fair use, so you might be OK but, just to be safe, better to stick to the PD stuff.



I think the Rifftrax guys talked about this. Somebody somewhere did, anyway, and they suggested the Coronet films were a good start because they were public domain so you could do whatever with them.



This is where I get my stuff.

Most stuff is Public Domain and you can download them.

You can check out what we do here:


I was about to suggest myself. That’s where I got all the shorts a friend and I used for our riffing panel at a local convention.

Fun fact: a lot of Disney educational movies are public domain and on there.

be careful with not everything that gets uploaded there is necessarily public domain. I would suggest deeper searching of rights online.

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The thing is unless you are trying to make money on your riffs, you have some freedom to do what you want with them.

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Not true - you can still violate copyright law without seeking monetary gain.

Probably the worst that will happen is you’ll get a takedown notice, but if you’re trying to not violate the law, better to stick to public domain (of which there is a lot).


This is definitely true. But as long as your work doesn’t “leave your hands” I imagine you’re safe doing whatever you want – Star Wars, Marvel’s Endgame, whatever. I believe it only becomes an issue if you share it with others (i.e. YouTube, etc.), regardless of monetary gain, because then you’re distributing copyrighted material.

I’m no expert so take this with a grain of salt, but I think it’s along the same lines as ripping copyrighted discs. I can rip discs all day for my own use and I’m not violating any copyrights, but if I give/sell/share those rips with anyone, then I am violating it.

Even then, the copyright holders love to argue that we cannot make backups of media we own even though it’s technically within our rights. And, like, I get it – there are bad apples out there and folks might not understand where the lines are drawn on things like distribution/rebroadcast. But the way things are currently is so “guilty until proven innocent”.

Tried backing up the John Wick discs? That’s a… joy.

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I agree that there are bad apples around, but between copyright holders trying to influence legislation to prevent VHS from coming to life (Sony, various studios), repeatedly lobbying to extend copyright forever (Disney), infecting users computers with malware to prevent ripping music discs (Sony), taking multiple bites from the apple (reissuing special edition discs every few years), and of course the RIAA and DMCA aggression, my sympathy ends with the world’s tiniest violin.

Copyright protection is valid and important, and I strongly believe creators should be compensated for their work and their intellectual property should be protected. But I think their right to enforce these ends when my activity infringes on neither of them.

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That is true, you can make copies for your own use. It’s publishing (including posting to the internet!) that would make it a violation of copyright. Remuneration or lack of it does not make a difference.

I have a couple of riffing projects on YouTube, and I can vouch that mainstream copyright owners are pretty jealous of their rights. I’ve done a couple of cartoons that are universally undertood to be public domain, but the original studios blocked them anyway. There are also people out there who fake a copyright claim hoping that nobody will challenge it, but fold like a cheap accordion when you do. This happens with almost all my videos.

The good news with educational films is, the original copyright lapses after 25 years (in the U.S.), and since these were not money-makers, and many of the production companies probably didn’t even exist anymore, they were probably not renewed and are free and clear. Especially here in the video/internet age.

One of my shows is live riffing with a friend, and the other is more like Elvira, breaking into the film for host segments. Here’s a link to my channel: PickleBoot Arts - YouTube

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