Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Film makers eat their young

Stronger copyright laws are enabling film and documentary makers to eat their young: with the costs (both royalties and legal expenses) of clearing even tiny, fair use clips exploding out of control, it is harder than ever to create films and documentaries, and existing film studios are able to lay down legal minefields to prevent smaller, up-and-coming artists from creating films -- especially documentaries. At a time when the technological barriers to becoming a film maker are shrinking, the artificial barriers are growing ever larger.

LA Weekly has an article about some of the trials and tribulations of documentary makers. British documentary maker Adam Curtis has not been able to distribute his BBC miniseries in the USA because of the cost of copyright: from $1,500 per minute in Britain to at least $7,000 per minute in the USA.

Remember that copyright law was created in order to encourage, not discourage, the creation of new artistic works, and it becomes clear that existing copyright laws are not just broken but actively harmful and require a major overhaul.

"Copyright holders have become so aggressive, they've limited the creative process in all different kinds of mediums," says [film maker Kirby] Dick. "That's bad for artists and bad for the studios. I think they're shooting themselves in the foot."

All is not darkness and gloom. While many copyright monopolists are often greedy and grasping, there are others who understand that what goes around comes around. The BBC is apparently keen to release large amounts of their archived work for royalty-free use via the Internet. Now that will be very, very interesting indeed!

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