Remember, the current copyright laws and practices are fine, it’s the pirates we need to worry about. From my morning paper, Classic docs sent back to the vault:
You the taxpayer paid for Donald Brittain’s The Champions, his National Film Board of Canada trilogy exploring the careers of Pierre Trudeau and René Lévesque. But you can’t see it — because rights to much of the footage used in this production have expired. “And it won’t become available until the NFB decides that it is worth its money to renew the cost of image clearances,” says Samantha Hodder, executive director of the Documentary Organization of Canada.
Thanks to spiralling copyright licensing costs, payable to whoever holds the copyright (unions, archives, creators, corporations) — and thanks, too, to the rising cost of insurance to protect against copyright claims — more and more public film footage is no longer available to the Canadian public, nor for use by Canadian creators. That’s the message of the DOC’s new white paper, released yesterday by the 700-member organization.
The Copyright Clearance Culture and Canadian Documentaries, written by Ottawa copyright lawyer Howard Knopf, cites many eyebrow-raising cases. An example: Quebec filmmaker Sylvie Van Brabant’s film Remous/Earthwalk has been withdrawn from public circulation because its main character sings 30 seconds of a recognizable tune whose rights the National Film Board has deemed too expensive to renew.
The cost of paying to use archival footage has been increasing, in part, the white paper notes, because underfunded institutions such as the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. and NFB have taken to using licensing fees as a revenue source. Filmmaker Avi Lewis was told that it would cost him $187.50 per second for CBC footage of his own grandfather, former NDP leader David Lewis, uttering the phrase “corporate welfare bums.” The younger Lewis backed off.
Just to recap, the Canadian National Film Board’s use of licensing to generate revenue is contributing to an environment making it too expensive to distribute its own films.
If you’ll excuse me, I’ve gotta go find myself a rooftop to shriek “O Canada” while I can still afford to do it.