Yesterday we received a query from a colleague wanting to use an image from the film Apocalypto (2006) to illustrate their research on a departmental website. Making use of a still from a film in this way does require permission from the copyright owner as it involves republishing the image on a public site and so is not covered by fair dealing exemptions relating to criticism and review. The issue with this query was more how to track down the rights owner to obtain the permission.
The film was made by Touchstone Pictures, which is part of the Disney. Much searching of the Disney website turned up only a general email contact for press related enquiries, to which a speculative email was sent, and a postal address for the Disney Rights in Burbank, California. Much to our surprise a response arrived from the Clearance Administrator for the Walt Disney Company advising that rights to the film were owned by Icon Distribution, so a request was made to them for permission and we await their response.
Along the way though, I discovered a very helpful resource for tracing rights for US materials: http://cocatalog.loc.gov And a great deal of information about US copyright on the US Copyright Office webpages: http://www.copyright.gov/