The highlight of my trip to the high-energy, high-touch DocAviv Documentary Film Festival was an open workshop on copyright and documentary, attended by about 35 filmmakers and a few lawyers. It shouldn’t have been surprising, but Israeli documentary filmmakers are just as frustrated and confused as U.S. makers used to be about what copyrighted material they must license and what they can just use. They’re just as eager to figure it out, and they’ve suddenly become poster children for Fair Use outside the U.S. Israeli law was just changed to incorporate U.S.-style Fair Use. "We don’t yet know how courts will interpret the law," said leading entertainment attorney Tony Greenman. "But there is far more flexibility than there ever was before." Israeli legal scholar Michael Birnhack noted that judges have sometimes issued far too narrow rulings. Greenman urged Birnhack to "educate the judges" (Israel’s judicial system is jury-free) about the importance of this tool to expand creativity in new works. The Center’s Documentary Filmmakers’ Statement of Best Practices in Fair Use was snapped up.
Rights weren’t only discussed in the workshop. Martijn te Pas, in from the International Documentary Film Festival in Amsterdam (IDFA), noted that internationally, rights issues can be enormously frustrating. IDFA, like some other documentary venues, plans to launch an Internet-based documentary channel by the end of the year; these projects all are encountering the reality that yesterday’s rights contracts—limited by region of the world, by kind of use, and by length of time-- is wildly inappropriate to a digital environment. (This was the topic of the Center’s New Deal and New Deal 1.5).