kNOw Future Inc.

law, technology and cinema, washed down with wine

Film and Appropriation – A Very Tricky Business

In editing studios people often quiz me as to the whther they can use elements of such and such a film, and it’s becoming rather depressing not being able to give them a straight answer. Let’s take something apparently simple first: public domain works. Unfortunately there are quite a few movies cruising the internet under a Creative Commons PD licence which, well, are in the public domain at all…. This is what happens when you have an infinite number of jurisdictions and rules in continual change. Take Russia. There extended their copyright duration in 2004 from 50 to seventy year after the death of the author. Now Dziga Vertov died in 1954, so without the change, “Man With a Movie Camera” would certainly have entered the public domain in 2005. But maybe it’s public domain elsewhere, but filmmakers who want to distribute their works over the net need to theoretically be clean everywhere.

These divergence are an order of magnitude worse when it comes to fair use/fair dealing.

Then there’s the question of protection for sound recordings. Prior to 1972 they weren’t protected by federal law in the US. then you find a case like Capital Records v Naxos to tell you that in fact they are protected at least in New York by State Law! This is the stuff of hair loss – 50 more states to add to the choice-of-law soup.

Of course what happens is that on a functional level deals are done, warranties provided only for certain markets, which correspond with specific jurisdictions. But at a time when web distribution, either on demand or retail, is accelerating, it’s snubs reality. Oh well. Bandit filmmakers don’t need to worry, along with filesharers – the jurisdiction problem for business correlates, curiously, to the difficulty of cracking down on unauthorised uses where no cash is being made of the results.

June 1, 2007 - Posted by | /, cinema, copyright, law, licenses

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