Cinema Minima reported today that Frederick Wiseman's seminal documentary Titicut Follies has been posted on Google Video. A quick look at the Google post reveals user "MK ULTRA 1967" has posted the whole film, and it does not appear to be Wiseman or his representatives. Cinema Minima asks "has this instance of the film been placed online with the permission of the copyright holder — which in this case, appears to be the filmmaker’s own company, Zipporah Films — or, under the 'Fair Use' exemption provided under the U. S. Copyright?"
Asking this question shows a complete lack of understanding of copyright and Fair Use. There is no provision in Fair Use for exhibiting someone else's work whole, without commentary or modification, without permission of the copyright holder. The right to exhibit one's work is one of the rights granted by copyright. Copyright infringement is one of the major issues facing free video upload services such as Google Video, YouTube and others. While many such sites will remove infringing materials, it is usually by request of the copyright owner. They must be vigilant to track each instance and send such requests, which might be ok for larger media corporations but more difficult for small independent companies such as Wiseman's Zipporah Films.
The Center's work in Fair Use for documentarians revolves around the need not to subvert copyright but to give filmmakers tools for understanding Fair Use, when it is appropriate to utilize copyrighted material and how to do so in a lawful manner. Simply because one can digitize someone else's film and post it to the web doesn't mean they have they have the right to; it is inappropriate to equate piracy with Fair Use. This kind of misunderstanding and lack of knowledge, seems to be one reason why professional filmmakers face such stiff opposition when attempting to utilize Fair Use in their work.