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.

Filed Under: confidentiality, documentary, footage, privacy
Companies: chevron


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  1. icon
    vrob (profile), 19 Jul 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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