Doc-makers get specific about copyright fair use

Friday afternoon, things changed for producers who need to use somebody else’s footage and music in their documentaries. Clearing rights may still cost a lot and take too much time, as in the past, but Patricia Aufderheide and Peter Jaszi believe producers now have a solid rationale for not paying excessive and confounding fees for copyrighted materials in certain cases. On Nov. 18 [2005], the Association of Independent Video and Filmmakers, the Independent Documentary Association, public TV’s Independent Television Service and the series P.O.V., and other media groups endorsed a Statement of Best Practices defining four kinds of situations when a producer, under the “fair use” provisions of copyright law, need not pay for a film clip, a shot of a painting or a snatch of music. Aufderheide, director of the Center for Social Media at American University in Washington, D.C., and Jaszi, an intellectual property expert at the university’s law school, convened groups of experienced filmmakers around the country to look closely at the producers’ (and their lawyers’) working definition of fair use.