Bound by Law?: Tales from the Public Domain, by Keith Aoki, James Boyle, and Jennifer Jenkins takes a humorous look at copyright and fair use issues in relation to filmmaking. The book has a new foreword by Oscar-winning filmmaker Davis Guggenheim (Director of An Inconvenient Truth) and a new introduction by award-winning novelist and copyright activist Cory Doctorow.
A documentary is being filmed. A cell phone rings, playing the Rocky theme song. The filmmaker is told she must pay $10,000 to clear the rights to the song. Can this be true? Eyes on the Prize, the great civil rights documentary, was pulled from circulation because the filmmakers’ rights to music and footage had expired. What’s going on here? It’s the collision of documentary filmmaking and intellectual property law, and it’s the inspiration for this comic book. Follow its heroine Akiko as she films her documentary and navigates the twists and turns of intellectual property. Why do we have copyrights? What’s “fair use”? Bound by Law? reaches beyond documentary film to provide a commentary on the most pressing issues facing law, art, property, and an increasingly digital world of remixed culture.
The book is the fruit of the pioneering Duke Law School Center for the Study of the Public Domain. Do check out their fabulous website which, among many other resources (webcasts and online articles about fair use), has the following downloadable short films (via RealPlayer):
- To Clear or not to Clear Filmmaker Chris Hegedus discusses how rights clearance practices have changed since the making of “Don’t Look Back”
- Disappearing History? Filmmaker Orlando Bagwell talks about making “Citizen King” and why “Eyes on the Prize” is no longer in circulation
- Great Composers Steal Composer Anthony Kelley visits classical and jazz traditions and explains why you can find a doppelganger for almost any tune.
If you are a budding documentary filmmaker, or if you are teaching the next generation of budding documentarians, Film Studies For Free thinks that you should definitely check out all of the above resources.