Documentary ‘Slaying the Dragon: Reloaded’ infringes copyrights?

Posted 02 April 2011 04:09 CEST by Justin_Massoud

Elaine Kim, an award-winning professor of Asian-American studies at the University of California, Berkeley, debuted her latest work entitled “Slaying the Dragon: Reloaded” at the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival this month.

The documentary – a follow-up to 1988s “Slaying the Dragon” by Deborah Gee – takes a hard look at how Asian women have been presented in TV, movies and even online over the past 25 years by showcasing various media clips accompanied by critique and analysis from educated professionals.

A surprising group took issue with Kim’s use of movie clips.

Six Asian filmmakers whose work appears briefly within the short documentary cried foul over Kim’s decision to include it.

The group argued in an opinion piece titled “On Fair Use in Media” that the reproduction of their work in the film constitutes copyright infringement and does not fall under fair use protection: “Using a clip of our films for review or promotional purposes is standard; however, using it in a documentary to illustrate that filmmaker’s point of view is a creative choice by the documentarian and therefore not subject to fair use.”

While fair use is a sometimes confusing legal area that many argue offers disproportionate protection to copyright holders, it does specifically allow for copyrighted material to be employed in the context of critical analysis, reporting and commentary — three aspects that are inherent in documentary filmmaking. Of course, there are still factors which measure whether or not fair use was legally utilized.

A comparison of Kim’s documentary and previously deemed correct examples of fair use shows little difference. However, the filmmakers were unwilling to budge.

“We find it ironic that Ms. Kim, whom we consider a friend of Asian-American filmmakers, and who sits in a highly regarded educational position, would overlook the simple basic courtesy of asking permission before using our films in her project,” wrote the group. “But none of us were approached beforehand.”

Kim bowed to the pressure and removed a clip from one particular film: “The People I’ve Slept With,” directed by Quentin Lee.

The San Francisco Chronicle site SFGate quotes Kim’s reasoning for the removal, “We did not remove the clip because we were concerned it was not fair use. We removed it because we do not have the time or resources to fight against a filmmaker that personally attacked us and was being unreasonable.”

Is this a case of misguided copyright claims causing censorship? The documentary film maker seems to think so. (Via TechDirt)

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