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Internationalization of Fair Use at Sheffield Film Festival

By Pat Aufderheide, reporting on a panel she chaired at the Sheffield Film Festival on international issues in licensing for documentary films.
Licensing can become private censorship, if filmmakers are kept from quoting critically important work to make their own. On the panel, producer Julie Goldman spoke about the astonishing rapidity of the adoption and success of the Documentary Filmmakers' Statement of Best Practices in the U.S. filmmaker Michael McMahon described filmmakers' work to reform Canadian copyright law to expand "fair dealing." Italian filmmaker Gioia Avvantaggiato described a growing European movement to assert the "right of quotation." Lawyer Matthew Cummins, a representative of the influential British trade association PACT, noted that filmmakers need to have greater right to quote music under UK law.

But renegade filmmaker Jamie King, whose aptly titled Steal This Film has been seen for free online by millions, argued for ignoring restrictions and offering work up for free. From the audience, communications scholar Sylvia Harvey, a board member of the Sheffield Film Festival, mildly noted that for culture to grow, people must be able to find a way to eat while making it. The panel discussion marked the first transcontinental discussion of new-maker rights to use copyrighted material without permission or payment, since the success of the Statement of Best Practices.