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Archival Footage Policy

Chicago Film Archives’ archival footage library contains film sequences from around the globe. Although the bulk of the footage represents the Midwest, we also have moving image documentation from all of North America and the rest of the world. Much of this twentieth century footage is unique and can be found nowhere else.

Our archival footage library continues to grow as a result of thousands of hours of specialized work. The materials we acquire need to be stabilized, organized and cataloged in order to gain access and knowledge of their content. The original materials are kept in a climate-controlled environment, housed in archival containers and eventually transferred to digital media.

When you use our services, you contribute to the preservation of our collective culture and history. Profits from the archival footage sales support the ongoing task of preserving, cataloging, exhibiting and storing CFA’s numerous moving image collections for people today and into the future. We consider our customers to be partners in Midwest moving image preservation.


CFA Archival Footage Policies

Research:  Before any CFA research or set up is started, the filmmaker must fill out a form that includes an abstract of the film/project that is being created, a request for the type of sequences you are looking for, and (if they exist) the timecode samples you would like from CFA’s website. The streaming archival footage clips you see on our website are only a small subsection of our holdings. We are constantly identifying and uploading new footage to our website, but films continually arrive at the archive and cannot be displayed immediately. We encourage researchers to inquire about footage that may not yet be available online. Note that further research by CFA staff will be billed to the client, resulting in a digital file screener.

If a producer/researcher is unsure if we have the type of material she/he is seeking, CFA will post up to three streaming sequences at a private portal so that the producer feels comfortable with the material they might get from CFA. For a fee, CFA also welcomes producers to come on-site to search the database with CFA staff in order to come face-to-face with the staff and material.

Access and Licensing Fees: Although CFA holds the copyrights to approximately 70% of its archival footage materials, the  copyrights to some of our footage is unknown. Some footage comes from found or orphaned films that have no discernible credits, and some footage may have been produced by companies that no longer exist. In all cases, the fees that CFA charges help to recover the heavy costs of storing, organizing, cataloging and sustaining the original footage for use by today’s filmmakers. The fees that CFA charges for licensing and access are identical. If CFA is providing only access to the footage, that will be reflected in the agreement between CFA and the client. If CFA does not have the copyright, but has knowledge of a third-party rights owner, we will gladly share that information with our clients.

Clip minimum: 8 seconds per clip (defined as each consecutive sequence of seconds) for orders under a total of two minutes. Minimum is removed for orders totaling two minutes of material or more.


Please call 312-243-1808 or email for more information regarding specific licensing rates for your project.


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