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Refrigerator Mothers

For examples of choices made for and against the application of fair use by an independent filmmaker, consider the decisions made by Kartemquin Films when making "Refrigerator Mothers." Click here to see the videos.


How Documentary Filmmakers Overcame their Fear of Quoting and Learned to Employ Fair Use

An American University research project on fair use and documentary filmmaking, Untold Stories, which expanded freedom of expression in the field, has broad implications for scholars working on popular culture. Fair use, the project revealed, becomes far more useable when creative and scholarly communities collectively assert and publicize their expectations for fair use. 


Copyright, Fair Use and Motion Pictures

The increasing reliance of motion picture production on the appropriation of reality has given rise to tensions that have been expressed in terms of conflicts over copyright. These tensions have become more acute over time, as the “real” environment has become more and more saturated with media artifacts, and as copyright law itself has extended its domain over more and more of those media objects.

Within copyright law, the tension between contemporary creators’ needs for access to preexisting material, on the one hand, and the imperatives of copyright ownership, on the other, are mediated primarily by the so-called “fair use” doctrine. The application of this venerable legal concept, which exempts some substantial takings of protected content from infringement liability, is the subject of this essay.


The Law of Fair Use and the Illusion of Fair-Use Guidelines

Several “official” and formal guidelines that attempt to define the scope of fair use for specific applications—notably for education, research, and library services—have emerged in the years since passage of the Copyright Act of 1976. Although some interested parties and some governmental agencies have welcomed these guidelines, none of them ever has had the force of law. This article analyzes the origins of guidelines, the various governmental documents and court rulings that reference the guidelines, and the substantive content of the guidelines themselves to demonstrate that in fact the guidelines bear little relationship, if any, to the law of fair use.



Fair Use Documents

View research and resources on fair use for creative communities including journalists, communication scholars, online video makers, and documentary filmmakers.


Intellectual Property Issues for the Social-Issue Documentary Filmmaker

Cultural arts journalist Shari Kizirian provides an overview of intellectual rights issues--copyright, trademark, digital rights management--as they affect the creative work of filmmakers.


Answers to Common Intellectual Property Questions for the Independent Documentary Filmmaker

Observance of intellectual property rights is necessary because failure to guarantee clearance may compromise the documentary's broadest possible distribution. To help relieve some of the attendant burdens and potential expenses that could incur for failure to comply with intellectual property clearance, the filmmaker should thoroughly and scrupulously explore available clearance alternatives. Three such alternatives, on which this memo focuses, are fair use, the public domain, and the Creative Commons.


Clipping Our Own Wings: Copyright and Creativity in Communication Research

Communication scholars need access to copyrighted material, need to make unlicensed uses of them in order to do their research, and often—especially within the United States—have the legal right to do so. But all too often they find themselves thwarted. This report demonstrates that scholars in communication frequently encounter confusion, fear, and frustration around the unlicensed use of copyrighted material. These problems, driven largely by misinformation and gatekeeper conservatism, inhibit researchers’ ability both to conduct rigorous analyses and to develop creative methodologies for the digital age.


Challenges in Employing Fair Use in Academic and Research Libraries

The Center for Social Media, the Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property, and the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) are pleased to announce the release of Challenges in Employing Fair Use in Academic and Research Libraries, which shows how librarians struggle to meet the missions of U.S. academic and research libraries, interpreting fair use and other copyright exemptions. 



Copyright, Free Speech, and the Public's Right to Know: How Journalists Think about Fair Use

This study, resulting from long-form interviews with 80 journalists, finds that journalistic mission is in peril because of lack of clarity around copyright and fair use.  Journalists’ professional culture is highly conducive to a robust employment of their free speech rights under the copyright doctrine of fair use, but their actual knowledge of fair use practice is low.