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Talking Copyright at HotDocs

HotDocsDuring the Doc Summit put on in conjunction with Documentary Organization of Canada (DOC) at HotDocs, I had the privilege of serving with DOC executive director Lisa Fitzgibbons on panel on copyright, fair use and fair dealing.  The discussion brought out a major achievement of DOC in the last few years.

Inspired by the work of the Center and the Washington College of Law around fair use, DOC leaders a few years ago surveyed its membership about problems they encountered with copyright.  In the ensuing  report, Censorship by Copyright, documentarians widely noted that they were frustrated in their attempts to use unlicensed copyrighted materials when they thought they should be able to under fair dealing and other exemptions permitting unlicensed use.

Since then, DOC has issued for its members guidelines on key exemptions in the law.  That knowledge alone appears to be making a difference. Michael McNamara, a leading Canadian documentarian, told me that his lawyer is suddenly permitting far more uses under fair dealing than before the guidelines were written. Others, Fitzgibbon told me, are experiencing the same. Now, Fitzgibbons told me, DOC may be considering working with its members to develop a code of best practices, in which documentarians interpret the exemptions in the most common situations where unlicensed uses occur.