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European Filmmakers and Fair Use

nordisk panorama imageDavid Van Taylor, a leading American documentarian, recently carried the news of the U.S. fair use movement to Europe, at the Nordisk Panorama Film Festival. Here is his report:

I was invited to speak about Fair Use and its overseas potential at the Nordisk Panorama Film Festival. A small collection of lawyers, scholars, and documakers have been looking into the possibilities for fair use — or the "right to quote" as it's known over there. We had a very exciting set of presentations and discussions; I spoke and showed examples from my work pertaining to the US experience, and Norwegian documentarians Jan Dalchow ("USA vs. Al-Arian") and Morten Daae ("My Daughter the Terrorist") put together a fantastic, detailed PowerPoint on their dealings with CNN, RAI-TV, and other international copyright players. The audience included the Norwegian Producers Association and a major archival broker, who expressed enthusiasm about signing on as institutional partners. The participants were so fired up about spreading the gospel of fair use not only in Norway but to surrounding countries and even throughout the EU, that I thought they were going to start building long boats and set out on the spot!

One thing to note as we take the message of fair use abroad: the Norwegians were so impressed by what we'd achieved here in the US that they assumed it must rest on a stronger legal foundation than they have there. My (non-lawyer) reading is that their laws are just as strong in many respects—the "right to quote" is carved out in their copyright law, and explicitly references "best practice," practically crying out for a Statement of Best Practice to be created. I explained how bad the situation here was just a few years ago, before the fair use revolution, fueled by our own community initiative,. They were clearly relieved and empowered to hear it. So we have to make sure filmmakers elsewhere find our accomplishments inspiring rather than intimidating.

And if height and cheekbones will help, they've got some definite advantages we in the US never had. Skål!