Clips Remixed – Fair Dealing and Cinema
The next days will see the launch of a remixing competition in the UK titled Mix’n’Mash. Particpants have to produce a three minute piece which will be published under a Creative Commons Non-commercial Share Alike licence. I’ve been researching guidelines for the contest and have been looking at some of the recent works boldly employing fair dealing/use so as to assess where the line now falls. Two cases particularly caught my attention.
The first is The Pervert’s Guide to the Cinema by Sophie Fiennes and Slavoj Zizek, which despite its suggestive title is really a psychoanalytical history of film. here we have the pleasure of watching Zizek meditating while he sits on the toilet or placed on the scene of a crucial moment in movie history. With considerable zest he outlines the conflicts played out between id, ego and super-ego, and illustrates the argument profusely with clips taken from about fourty movies. The segments used ar mostly between 15 and 30 seconds, and each one is accompanied by the names of the director, copyright owner etc. In any case the film has had a lot of difficulty getting distribution in the United States because of the fact that the clips used weren’t cleared with the rightsholders, and rly upon the fair dealing exception for critisim and review. Fortunately this didn’t deter Channel Four in the UK, who have experience in litigating this subject (a 1994 case about a documentary on Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange), who broadcast the film.
The second case regards Kirby Dick’s latest offering This Film Is Not Yet Rated, which is a critique of the MPAA’s rating process so vital in enabling access to mass audiences in US cinemas. The identities of the ratings committee are secret and theere is no transparency to the process, so Dick hired private investigators to follow them and build up a picture of their attitudes. As the director of work that frequently deals with the politics of the body, he was particularly interested in the marginalization of films depicting or celebrating non-heterosexual pleasure, and really the film is overtly an attack on censorship. Audaciously Dick decided not to seek clearance for the many clips he used, so the film’s form becomes a challenge to that other form of private censorship: the arbitrary power of the copyright owner. Amsuingly he then submitted the work to the Ratings Board who gave it a NC 17 stamp, but the process requires that a director make no changes after assessment and he did, thus the name of the film. Unsurprisingly then the movie has not had a theatrical release in the US but ahs circulated widely in film clubs, festivals etc. next week it will be released on DVD. There’s an interesting article on the subject here, including discussion of a several other titles.
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