March 20, 2006 | By Fred von Lohmann

Embarassment of Riches for Documentarians

Wow, documentary filmmakers suddenly find themselves with some of the very best resources explaining fair use that have ever been assembled for non-lawyers. First came the Center for Social Media's project to bring together documentarians to distill a Documentary Filmmakers' Statement of Best Practices in Fair Use. This is fantastic because it is short, free, written for non-lawyers, and grew out of discussions inside the documentary film community. Best of all, courts can look to this kind of "best practices" document when deciding fair use cases. So, with any luck, the documentary community is effectively making their own fair use law here, rather than waiting for Congress or the courts to resolve the questions. Bravo!

And now that great project has been joined by Bound By Law (also available in a bound edition from Amazon), a new comic book (!) from Duke Law School's Center for the Study of the Public Domain that describes fair use principles as they apply to documentary film-makers. The graphic novel form here is effectively used to put across a great deal of useful, practical legal information in a way that lay persons can use.

Now it's up to the rest of us to assemble similar resources for the other creators at the vanguard of the digital arts, like mash-up artists, digital satirists, and video remixers.

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