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February 1994


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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Sat, 26 Feb 1994 10:30:08 EST
text/plain (63 lines)
Being a student does not by itself protect one from possible infringement
difficulties.  But:
One can do whatever one wishes in one's private space.  That is, if Josh
wishes to try his hand at a stage version of RESERVOIR DOGS or anything
else for purposes of study/analysis, this is really no different from
reading a book.  It's another matter if the script came into his hands
by illegal means (likely, since autographed scripts are not typically
put into circulation).  Leave that point aside for now.
Close to this and typically practiced in many performance departments
(theatre, film, music) is the use of scenes from plays or scores
protected by copyright as classroom exercises.  This is likely covered
under "fair use" provisions.  But, this non-lawyer is not sure about
that interpretation of fair use.  All I know is that the practice is
widespread and I've never heard of cases attempting to enforce the
copyright at that level.
There have been attempts to protect music played on campus occasions,
though.  A campus concert is not the same as a classroom exercise.
Monetary loss is at issue here as has been pointed out by Eric.
A major element of copyright protection is that it protects not only the
form in which a work was created (e.g., novel, play) but all derivative
works.  That is, one must receive permission ("rights") to adapt a work
created in one form into another form.  Sometimes this line of permissions
gets very long.  SOUND OF MUSIC started as a personal memoir, then a play,
then a stage musical, then a film.  All of these underlying rights had to
be cleared.
Obtaining permission to use copyrighted material is a matter of negotiation.
Typically in the major leagues it is a matter of selling something of value.
Consider the machinations around the rights to the Kerrigan/Harding story.
Sometimes, though, it's as simple as asking and making a good case why
YOU should be the one to have the rights.  In one instance I know of
the children of the original author of an obscure novel simply gave
the movie rights to a friend, as a gift.
For movies things get more complicated.  Typically a mainstream film is
written as a "work for hire" which means that for the purposes of
copyright the studio/distribution/other corporation is deemed to be
the "author" of the work.  On this point, see the tail credits way
down at the bottom for an inscription which spells this out:
Rough paraphrase from memory:  "Warner Bros. is considered to be the
author of the foregoing motion picture for the purposes of copyright."
My guess:  RESERVOIR DOGS is likely protected under some such provision.
The point here is that a motion picture is under the law a complex work,
that is, a work which incorporates numerous individual creations which
under other circumstances could be individually copyrighted.
Anyone wishing more information can consult any of the numerous books
published since the 1978 revision of the Copyright Law, some are
directed at the issues discussed (and from which I got my understanding
of these matters).
Cal Pryluck, Radio-Television-Film, Temple University, Philadelphia
<[log in to unmask]>  <PRYLUCK@TEMPLEVM>