Canada's documentaries lost to copyright

Canada's taxpayer-funded National Film Board has underwritten many brilliant documentaries that are no longer available due to the prohibitive cost of re-licensing the copyrights for the materials they incidentally feature. The Documentary Organization of Canada has released a new white paper detailing the many Canadian treasures that are lost due to the greed of rightsholders and the spike in copyright liability insurance.

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 An example: Quebec filmmaker Sylvie Van Brabant's film Remous/Earthwalk has been withdrawn from public circulation because its main character sings 30 seconds of a recognizable tune whose rights the National Film Board has deemed too expensive to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.


(Thanks, Nat!)