Fair Use and the First Amendment: Corporate Control of Copyright Is Stifling Documentary Making and Thwarting the Aims of the First Amendment


Documentary motion pictures constitute a crucial part of contemporary public debate, because in today’s highly consolidated mass media environment, documentaries offer the kinds of independent voices that the First Amendment was designed to protect. However, current intellectual property practices are chilling speech by forcing documentary filmmakers to tailor their films to accommodate new, strict licensing practices. When filmmakers are compelled to edit their work to meet insurance requirements, it harms the interests of not just the filmmaker, but also the public. Thus, the “clearance culture,” in which anything and everything that could possibly lead to a lawsuit must be cleared, is choking speech by hindering or preventing production of documentaries about important issues.


Business Organizations Law | Commercial Law | Communications Law | Constitutional Law | Entertainment, Arts, and Sports Law | Intellectual Property Law

Date of this Version

February 2006