Copyright As Censorship: Filmmaker Gets Fair Use Clip Removed From Documentary Over Copyright Claim

from the can't-criticize-without-a-license? dept

Justin Levine points us to yet another example of copyright law being used (successfully, unfortunately) for censorship. Elaine Kim, a UC Berkeley professor, made a documentary called Slaying the Dragon: Reloaded, which takes a critical look at how Asian women are portrayed in film and television. In doing so, she obviously used many clips from the videos that she was critiquing. And, while the big Hollywood studios (whose work is a large part of the focus) haven't complained, a group of six Asian American filmmakers have tried to claim that she infringed on their works by using the clips in her film without licensing.

Of course, this is a pretty clear cut case of fair use. I'd be amazed if anyone tried to make a reasonable case that using these clips wouldn't qualify as fair use. As John Diaz notes in the article linked above, she uses very short clips, and she does so for "social, political and cultural critique," which puts her on very solid fair use grounds. However, as he notes at the end of the article, Professor Kim still removed the clips of one of the more vocal filmmakers who demanded a license, saying that "we do not have the time or resources to fight against a filmmaker that personally attacked us and was being unreasonable."

This is unfortunate, and a clear case of using copyright as censorship. Even if the use was fair use, just the threat of a copyright claim against someone can and will (in this case, clearly) create serious chilling effects on speech. That's a serious concern, and it's a shame that some are choosing to mock the serious concerns of how copyright is used for censorship in this manner.

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  1. icon
    Ken (profile), 2 Apr 2011 @ 4:34pm

    IP Maximilists the new authoritarians

    No they should not infact documentaries along with criticism MUST be protected and cannot be expected to get permission from the copyright holder because the copyright holder CANNOT have a veto in their own criticism or a documentary that may either put them in a bad light or if the nature of the documentary is against their own personal views.

    Copyright holders have no special right to restrict freedom of speech in any matter. CONGRESS SHALL MAKE NO LAW RESTRICTING FREEDOM OF SPEECH. Copyright holders are not some special class of people that are above Congress and the Constitution.

    There is no bill of rights for copyright holders. There is no special provision in the Constitution for them except to specifically mandate a time limit and its stated purpose is to promote free expression, not stifle it. Copyrights are very low on the rights food chain and are really in the category of revocable privilege than an inalienable rights.

    Newspapers are particularly low on even the copyright food chain. For one thing a news article is a perishable item. It looses its value the instant it is published. Many aspects of a news story cannot even be copyrighted since they are factual in nature. A fact that has weighed heavily in Right haven cases lately.

    It is absolutely apparent that IP Maximilists are freedom and Constitutional rights minimalists. They have a very authoritarian and absolutist world view. They are possibly the most dangerous threat to our freedoms that exist today. Either their view is defeated or we are all be subject to the copyright masters.

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