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October 1992


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Tom Benson 814-865-4201 <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Wed, 14 Oct 1992 23:14:00 EDT
text/plain (44 lines)
In-Reply-To:  James.D.Peterson.4 AT ND.EDU -- Wed, 14 Oct 1992 15:30:54 CST
James Peterson asks about the story behind Fred Wiseman's
refusal to grant permission to use frame enlargements in
Benson & Anderson, REALITY FICTIONS (SIU Press, 1989) and
Anderson & Benson, DOCUMENTARY DILEMMAS (SIU Press, 1991).
I don't want to be unfair to Fred Wiseman, who is not on
this network, and whose films I admire, but the simple version
of the story is that Fred at one point told us that it would
be no problem for him to supply us with images and permissions.
Later he demanded that he be allowed to exercise oversight and
approval of our text as a condition for such permissions.
We of course refused, for the sake of the project's integrity.
I believe that Fred's problem was that he found our account of
the TITICUT FOLLIES case not sufficiently sympathetic to his
own public version--though we have always felt that our
treatment was even-handed, and have always advocated release
of the film.
Fred had earlier refused permission to use frame enlargements
from HIGH SCHOOL on grounds that it would violate the privacy
of his subjects--hence, I used line drawings to illustrate the
analysis. The HIGH SCHOOL essay was originally printed in
SPEECH MONOGRAPHS in, I think, about 1980.
I believe, from earlier research on another project, that
Society for Cinema Studies is generally correct in interpreting
copyright law to say that some frames from a film may be used
by a scholar under the doctrine of fair use, since they are
really in a different medium. But in the REALITY FICTIONS project
we saw no point in dragging the matter out and risking that
the university press would be dragged into a lawsuit.
Yes, it did seem ironic that a filmmaker so dependent on
the protection of the First Amendment would take this position,
and threaten suit. The world of documentary ethics is full of
ironies. In any case, he was protecting what he saw as his
Tom Benson
Penn State t3b@psuvm