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Everything you need to know about using copyrighted material in your documentary film

RiP! A Remix Manifesto , Brett Gaylor, provided by the National Film Board of Canada

The Documentary Organization of Canada (DOC) released a set of guidelines last week that help filmmakers make sense of how to use copyrighted materials in their films. The Guidelines draw on existing fair dealing provisions set out in the Copyright Act.

As it turns out, filmmakers have been spending an unnecessary amount of time, and money, securing rights and clearances where, in fact, they weren’t even required. As DOC points out:

“In simple language, and with reference to the filmmaker’s art, the Guidelines help documentary filmmakers understand what kinds of dealings qualify for the fair dealing defence and do not require clearance.”

They’re DOC is quick to point out that a) not all dealings will qualify as fair dealing, and b) they the intention of the guidelines do not purport to change or reform the law. They’re simply applying the law in a way that’s easy to understand. And for that, we say Thank You!*

To learn more about the Documentary Organization of Canada, visit their website. You can also download a copy of the Guidelines here.


Updated, 05/19/10 at 16h21: As Cameron pointed out in the comments below, there was room for misinterpretation of my original post. I hope this clarifies anything that wasn’t clear.

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  1. There’s a bit of a misunderstanding here. DOC does want increased flexibility for fair dealing (as can be seen in our submissions to the copyright consultations, and other campaigns) The guidelines serve as a way to avoid needless expenditures in the absence of flexible fair dealing.

    The guidelines are an attempt to develop best practices and consensus within the industry, but mainly to help documentarians put money back into production and not unnecessary license fees.

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