Banned film “27” – a case study
Following my last blog post about being blocked from posting on Facebook (and by the way thank you to everyone who read it and commented or sent me messages, I’m truly glad to have your support!), I’ve come across another example of copyright issues stopping creative work from being released, and it certainly got me thinking deeper about this issue. I’ll share it here just to also talk about the thought process I’m going through now.
The creative work in question is a film titled “27”, a theatrical documentary film about the ’60s that features the stories of three (dare I say pop?) music icons of the time: Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison, who all died within the span of one year, from accidental heroin overdoses. Created by Stuart Samuels, the film has apparently already been completed, but it cannot be screened because the estates of the three cultural icons refused to have them featured in a film as part of a larger cultural context, as opposed to being featured individually.
My thoughts at the moment:
Does it necessarily count as representation of an artist if the artist is not the main point of the film, rather more of a vehicle driving the narrative?
Is there a time period after which using media on an artist can be considered Public Domain? If not, should there be?
If I were an artist, would I allow media of myself to be reappropriated for a different context, particularly after I’m dead?
Truly, this copyright issue is greater than I can fathom at the moment. I feel that there are so many facets to copyright issues that I can only learn about through my own experiences, or through the stories that others who have experienced them are willing to talk about. I for one am very happy that Samuels has chosen to talk about this issue, so that others like myself in creative industries can be more aware of copyright complications.
Nevertheless, as the saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention. I hope that someday this film will be allowed to be screened, or to fulfill its purpose somehow, as an artefact of a particular cultural period. Until then, I suppose, it will forever remain only on the website under the optimistic heading (which I like very much) ‘Coming Soon’.
I’ve just read about ‘transformative fair use’ of copyright works, and in the above case I suppose the copyright works would refer to video clips or otherwise pictorial representations of the three aforementioned artists. So apparently, if copyright works are used in a way which transforms the original, such as comments on it or gives it a different meaning – which is how I suppose the above film adds a new layer of meaning to these artists – it should be considered as transformative fair use. Furthermore, a recently concluded (2014) landmark case in the US just ruled that ‘transformative’ need not even require commentary, and the transformation of aesthetic is enough. (The case is called Cariou v Prince, and you can read about it on the Wiki page or just Google it.)
Well I’m not a lawyer, so… this is definitely a question for lawyers!