New Media Rights:
Advice to Filmmakers

For documentarians, film, and media makers, it’s critical to understand your legal rights and responsibilities when creating and publishing work. The nuances of rights and privileges become particularly crucial and often confusing in the digital era when publishing content in various forms online. As filmmakers increase their opportunities to engage audiences through a patchwork of forms, including: digital releases, blogs, and social media- deep questions often arise in navigating the rights and responsibilities of usage.

Understanding your rights and responsibilities is important for many reasons. New Media Rights is a San Diego based organization that offers legal assistance to media creators across the country. Answers to questions about copyright, fair use, online publishing, and legal rights in distribution can be found in the form of guides and one-on-one legal assistance provided by NMR. Their website hosts an impressive selection of resources for navigating rights, privileges, and how-to’s in the world of digital content. Learn more about New Media Rights via the website: newmediarights.org.

For our blog, NMR has generously put together three guides especially for filmmakers, based on common rights issues we often come across.

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A citizen’s legal guide to fair use in copyright law.
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Fair use allows creators to use creative works for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research- without consent of the copyright holder. If your film is found to be using clips under fair use, it is not an infringement of copyright. For instance, in a 90 minute documentary, the use of a 30 second clip from a cable news show may be considered fair use if it is the type of use that is protected under fair use.

Click here to read this guide:
http://www.newmediarights.org/guide/legal/copyright/fair_use/citizens_legal_guide_fair_use_copyright_law

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How to find out what is in the public domain.
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Works in the public domain, can be copied distributed, performed and otherwise used in the works that you are creating. The following chart can help you find out if a piece of content (book, movie, music, etc.) is in the public domain. Remember, even if the work is not in the public domain, you may be able to make use of the work if your use falls under fair use or a creative commons/open source license.

Click here to read this guide:
http://www.newmediarights.org/guide/legal/copyright/public_domain/how_find_out_what_public_domain
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Video Releases
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A critical aspect in most documentary films, is the testimony and interviews that are done with subjects throughout the process of creating the film. It is sometimes inevitable that not all interview subjects will be perfectly happy with the way they are portrayed in the finished product. Having a video release can protect you from liability when these situations arise. It’s important to have at recorded or preferably written permission of consent by these people to appear in your film. The guide defines “creative works”, “exploitative purposes”, “commercial purposes”, and also how you can acquire a person’s consent within a video or audio recording. as well as under what circumstances you would need to do so.

Click here to read this guide:
http://www.newmediarights.org/guides/legal_guide_video_releases_use_publication_audio_and_video_recordings

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New Media Rights is an organization dedicated to providing legal assistance regarding new media, technology, and the laws surrounding the Internet and intellectual property. This includes copyright, trademark, licensing, as well as issues regarding online speech and social media services.

If you have a question about publishing online or concerns regarding your digital rights on the Internet, you can contact them directly through this handy form on the website: http://www.newmediarights.org/about_us/contact_us

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