What is a Media Disclaimer?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A media disclaimer is a legal statement accompanying a piece of media such as a video, song, or newspaper article, providing information about how the media can be used and limiting liability on the part of the provider. Boilerplate disclaimers are available from a number of sources and it is also possible to draft a custom media disclaimer to address specific concerns. An attorney is usually involved in the creation or revision of such documents to confirm they comply with the law and cover all the necessary topics.

Woman holding an optical disc
Woman holding an optical disc

One aspect of a media disclaimer is a copyright statement. This statement informs the user about the ownership of the copyright and how the media may be used and is designed to protect the rights of the copyright holder. In some cases, this may involve a fair use statement indicating that copyrighted material used in the media is being utilized lawfully, as for example in the case of criticism of creative work where the work needs to be shown.

Media disclaimers can also warn users about the accuracy and reliability of the media, noting that information may not be complete or correct and the creator of the media does not accept liability for incorrect information, although it will issue corrections in the event of an identified error. A media disclaimer also warns that the creator is not responsible for how the content is used and for any damages incurred as a result of using the content. This is designed to limit the scope of liability for the creator by peremptorily addressing potential causes for suit.

The media disclaimer may also discuss the format the media is provided in and make it clear that the provider is not obliged to offer the media in a different format and is not liable for any errors caused by converting between formats. Such disclaimers can also include contact information for the publisher and/or copyright holder, allowing people with questions or requests for reprints to contact a person in a position of authority.

In the case of media drafted for a specific person on request, such as blueprints for a house, the media disclaimer may also indicate that the media is not designed to be used by anyone else, and that it is confidential in nature. This is designed to prevent people from distributing media not intended for general use, protecting confidentiality of clients and reducing the risk of copyright violations.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


@turquoise-- It probably depends on the type of disclaimer and the goal. I personally think that disclaimers work most of the time.

For example, some films where a character is shown smoking has a disclaimer that cigarette smoking is injurious to health and the actors of the film do not encourage it in any way. Now I think that's a useful disclaimer that actually works. It basically tells people that they should not take to smoking because their favorite actor is doing it on screen. When combined with images of lung cancer patients, it's a fairly effective disclaimer in my opinion.

So whether a disclaimer works or not really depend on the specific disclaimer and the reason for its use.


Do media disclaimers really work? I feel like most of the time, they don't. I mean, they will only work if authorities put it into practice. We all know that infringement of copyrights laws are punishable by law but is it being put to practice? I think it's time to take these disclaimers and laws more seriously. I know it's difficult to regulate but if a disclaimer is placed just for the sake of having it there, it loses its effect, the purpose it was used for.


Films always have a copyright disclaimer. That's normal because pirated films are a huge issue and cost film makers a lot of money annually.

Another disclaimer I often see in the beginning of a film is about how "all the characters are fictitious and resemblance to any person living or dead is purely coincidental."

That's another given disclaimer that all filmmakers automatically put in front of a fictional film. It's an easy way to prevent any lawsuits that may come up after the film has been screened. Filmmakers would rather put this and get it out of the way rather than deal with problems later. But sometimes I do wonder if it's even an issue at all.

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