Documentary Filmmaker Has To Turn Over Some Footage To Chevron

from the not-so-shielded-after-all dept

Back in May, we wrote about a judge ordering a documentary filmmaker to turn over the footage that didn't make the film to Chevron. The documentary was about Chevron's alleged involvement in Ecuadorian rainforest pollution, and Chevron believes that some of the cut footage will help get a case that has been filed against it in Ecuador dismissed. The filmmaker tried to raise press protections, but the district court judge shot that down, saying that the material was not confidential (and, in fact, was filmed knowing it might be made public). The case was appealed, and the appeals court wasted little time in again telling the filmmaker to hand over footage, but the court also appears to have limited the scope somewhat:
  • Berlinger has to turn over all footage showing (1) plaintiffs' counsel in Chevron's civil lawsuit in Ecuador, (2) private or court-appointed experts, and (3) current or former Ecuadorian officials;
  • Chevron can only use the material produced for litigation, arbitration or submission to official government bodies;
  • Chevron must pay for all reasonable costs incurred by Berlinger in turning over the footage; and
  • The district court below shall maintain jurisdiction to address any disputes relating to the release of the footage.
Apparently, both sides are claiming victory, but as Itai Maytal at the Citizen Media Law Project notes, the full details of the ruling (not yet issued) will matter a lot, and no matter what, this could be seen as a "weakening" of previous case law about reporter's privileges, which could lead to more lawsuits against reporters.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

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    ChadBroChill (profile), Jul 19th, 2010 @ 8:04pm

    But if it was documentary . . .

     

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    ChadBroChill (profile), Jul 19th, 2010 @ 8:10pm

    But if it was documentary . . .

    If it was actual live footage, why shouldn't Chevron have access to it? What harm could them having access to footage of their operations incur on the filmmaker? I am a film student, and if I made a doc about a company, who then wanted A COPY of the footage, I would gladly hand it over. It would be different if they were trying to stifle a negative story or something, but this is about freeing useful information from private hands who would never release it otherwise. Isn't that what we get pissed off at studios for doing? How is it different when a large company asks and individual for access? I'm all about freeing up information, so let's not set a double standard.

     

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      vrob (profile), Jul 19th, 2010 @ 8:45pm

      Re: But if it was documentary . . .

      It seems that the documentary's story was a bit negative, which is why Chevron wants to see more footage. If the story was positive, along the lines of "Chevron saves the Rainforest," the extra footage would not be an issue. Chevron would most likely be taking the other side and arguing for confidentiality.

      I agree that the footage should be released - but only if it is relevant. As a filmmaker, would you appreciate it if outtakes or you and the rest of the crew goofing around with the equipment were entered into the record of a public trial with national coverage?

       

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        Big Al, Jul 19th, 2010 @ 11:43pm

        Re: Re: But if it was documentary . . .

        "Berlinger has to turn over all footage showing
        (1) plaintiffs' counsel in Chevron's civil lawsuit in Ecuador,
        (2) private or court-appointed experts, and
        (3) current or former Ecuadorian officials;"

        Doesn't sound like you and the rest of the crew goofing around with the equipment...

         

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 19th, 2010 @ 8:18pm

    I see nothing wrong with this, or demanding any reporter provide copies of all work used to produce a story, nothing in that is stopping you from reporting

    What if I film you for 24 hours, and only show the 2 minutes you were pissed off about something or someone and said see, he is a mean, vile person, you shouldn't like this person

    you would want the 23 hours and 58 minutes of film too, to rebut what I said

    carefully filming whatever chevron did and crafting it into a certain picture doesn't sound like a real documentary, sounds like a personal agenda

     

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      AMusingFool (profile), Jul 19th, 2010 @ 8:27pm

      Re:

      I see nothing wrong with this, or demanding any reporter provide copies of all work used to produce a story, nothing in that is stopping you from reporting


      So when a government agent tells a reporter about something illegal going on within the government (say, wiretapping the opposition party, maybe), the reporter being forced to reveal who that source is isn't a big deal to you?

      I'll grant you that those laws are used overly much by reporters, but there's very good reason for them to be there.

       

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      nasch (profile), Jul 20th, 2010 @ 9:08am

      Re:

      you would want the 23 hours and 58 minutes of film too, to rebut what I said

      Maybe I would want it, but there's no reason I should have any right to have it.

      carefully filming whatever chevron did and crafting it into a certain picture doesn't sound like a real documentary, sounds like a personal agenda

      Sure, but that's no reason for a court to interfere. This case appears to have nothing to do with Chevron trying to rebut the documentary, and is all about using the film as evidence in a separate lawsuit.

      I also see no reason why the filmmaker shouldn't be compelled to turn over legitimate evidence in a court case. It doesn't sound like there's any whistleblowing, confidential sources, or matters of personal safety involved.

       

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    vrob (profile), Jul 19th, 2010 @ 8:34pm

    I think that turning over any relevant footage is reasonable. A request for all of the footage filmed during the process of making the documentary would be invasive and most likely beyond the scope of the lawsuit.

    As long as the request is limited to footage that directly involves the issues presented, such as all of the footage from a specific interview, it seems like a reasonable request (unless the person being interviewed requested anonymity).

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 19th, 2010 @ 8:38pm

    this has nothing to do with revealing sources, please read the story, they are being sued, in part because of his documentary

    they just want all the film he took, to help show stuff that may help paint a bigger picture, he didn't include in the film

    hence the example, I show you ranting and cussing and screaming, and say, see, hes an asshole, but I don't show the guy who almost ran over your child in his car, that paints it in a different light, doesn't it????

     

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      vrob (profile), Jul 19th, 2010 @ 8:53pm

      Re:

      I think I agree with you. If revealing sources that wish to remain confidential is not an issue, then there does not seem to be a reason for refusing to turn over additional footage from any specific interview for which additional footage is requested. So long as the footage requested is relevant to the lawsuit.

       

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    bob, Jul 19th, 2010 @ 9:34pm

    So Many

    Documentaries these days are straight out hit pieces lacking so called Journalism.
    Advocacy media has the right to be published, but not the right to lie. The only way to know is to see all the material related to the video.

     

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    Jeff, Jul 19th, 2010 @ 10:24pm

    Message to filmmakers...

    Why not just post it online? I mean, if it shows Chevron doing something they shouldn't be doing, let it spread online. Places will happily host it.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 20th, 2010 @ 5:22pm

    have you seen the news about Sherrod??

    http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2010/07/20/ex-ag-official-says-video-showing-white-farm er-story-excludes-key-context/

    the edited clip shows her being racist, but the whole clip shows her relating a story the helped her to overcome race, 24 years ago

    So you say we shouldn't have any "right" to all the video???

    please, are you that stupid

     

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      nasch (profile), Jul 20th, 2010 @ 6:46pm

      Re:

      For what reason should you or anyone else have any right to any video someone shoots and chooses not to release publicly? I'm not arguing whether it's good or bad that the video is kept secret or made public. I'm saying that I can't think of any right anyone has to force a filmmaker to release video they don't want to. Other than the narrow case of evidence in a trial anyway. Can you?

       

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