The International Copyright Balance and Documentary Film Project of American University is releasing a groundbreaking report and film on the experiences of South African documentary filmmakers with copyright clearance obligations. The report and film, sponsored by the Ford Foundation, will be simultaneously released at a film screening and workshops with filmmakers December 10-12, 2009, in Johannesburg, South Africa, and on the web at wcl.american.edu/pijip/go/internationalfilm.
The report finds that in South Africa as in other countries, documentary filmmakers need to quote other material-including music, still images, news footage or even images from commercial films-in order to tell their stories. Such material is normally copyrighted. Copyright laws in South Africa and around the world allow for the use of such material by filmmakers and others to create new expressive works, but filmmakers often do not know their rights. The report found, for example, that nearly 70% of South African filmmakers do not know they have rights to use copyrighted material in their films to review or critique copyrighted work, as a “fair quotation,” or under other circumstances. As a result, filmmakers often avoid the use of such material, restrict the distribution of their films, especially from international markets, and do their work under an assumption that they are frequently breaking the law.
The project was developed in partnership with American University’s Center for Social Media, which has worked with PIJIP since 2004 to clarify and expand access to fair use within U.S. law. The partnership has created a range of tools for, among others, documentary filmmakers, media literacy teachers, and online video makers. See centerforsocialmedia.org/fairuse.