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Fair Use: Narrative & Documentary Filmmaking

Updated: Aug 22, 2023

PLF's Managing Attorney James Pacitti chairs an all-star panel on Fair Use: Narrative & Documentary Filmmaking.

What is Fair Use?
According to Stanford: "... a fair use is any copying of copyrighted material done for a limited and “transformative” purpose, such as to comment upon, criticize, or parody a copyrighted work. Such uses can be done without permission from the copyright owner. In other words, fair use is a defense against a claim of copyright infringement. If your use qualifies as a fair use, then it would not be considered an infringement."

The panel was hosted by the Beverly Hills Bar Association’s Entertainment Law section (the largest of its kind in the world), of which James is a member of its Executive Committee.

During the panel, James Pacitti and a cohort of industry experts discussed cases that rocked the world of documentary filmmaking, including Brown v. Netflix, Inc., Whyte Monkee Productions LLC V. Netflix, Inc., and Lynday Grace Whiddon V. Buzzfeed, Inc. The panel discussed the difficulty of the fair use defense and discussed how aspiring independent filmmakers might want to navigate these challenges.

PLF’s entertainment attorneys have advised clients on the application of the fair use doctrine with their documentary projects. Producers and directors can contact the firm for expert guidance. There is also a very informative guide for documentarians produced by the Association of Independent Video and Filmmakers, Independent Feature Project, International Documentary Association, National Alliance for Media Arts and Culture, and Women in Film and Video (Washington, D.C., chapter) – “Documentary Filmmakers’ Statement of Best Practices in Fair Use” (downloadable for free here).


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