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Old November 21st, 2007, 10:55 AM   #1
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Documentary: rights of others?

Ok, I'm not sure how to word this so please bare with me. I'm shooting a documentary that covers a topic most people refuse to talk about on camera.
So far everyone I've filmed has signed a release form. But, I've lost some golden opportunities because particular people have given me valuable info. But didn't want to say it on film. I've tried to convince them that I can conceal their identity and voice but since the topic is over a small town where everyone knows everyone, they just don't bite!!!! I'm not sure WHO I can film without a release. I know that anyone that willingly puts themselves in the like politicians and celebrities can be filmed without consent... but what about normal people? I've ended up filming myself talking about a conversation I had with individual, instead of filming the individual saying it! And what about hidden cameras? Can I film anyone as long as his or her identity is concealed? Or can I be sued for invasion of privacy for capturing there voice without consent? I'm confused... How do news journalists and other related press get all those compromising shots without the consent of the person being filmed? ANY help at all would be much appreciated!
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Old November 21st, 2007, 07:12 PM   #2
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You need to consult an attorney in your state for more advice.

In fact, if the situation is as "delicate" as you indicate then I'd advise you to retain an attorney before shooting another frame.

I am not a lawyer, although I once saw a law library- but I'm pertty sure that doesn't count.

I suggest working with your local news. If its newsworthy, some reporter may take an interest and help you out. News can get away with a lot more than a documentary crew. Once its on the news, it should be easier getting rights from the station to include materials in your film. In fact, very short clips from the news may even be used without permission as 'fair use.'

Now, with that said, if you really can't get the action on tape/film, then I suggest dramatization. cf America's Most Wanted and the like.

If that won't work, then use your material as research and make a movie about the topic.

Finally- I am not a lawyer, so consult one before following ANY of my suggestions.
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Old November 22nd, 2007, 09:44 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by Alexander Ibrahim View Post
News can get away with a lot more than a documentary crew.
How? I mean... is there something I can apply for, or a form I can fill out... TEST I CAN TAKE to get the rights that the press have? Anyone out here have news or other related press experience they'd like to share? the fact is... the material I'm filming is pretty sensitive. I'ts extremely hard to get my leads to speak on camera. I'm not sure if they are scared to talk, or be identified, or what. I've had a few encounters myself that were a little insane because oc the subject matter. But, I fear that the only way I'm going to be able to make this documentary watchable is if i have rights to report and serve the public interest
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Old November 22nd, 2007, 01:15 PM   #4
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Press credentials are given to the press. Do you publish a newspaper or magazine? Do you broadcast over the airwaves/cable? Or, more recently - do you have an online blog??? (Yeah, that's become a bit sticky lately, are bloggers 'press'? Depends on who is issuing the credentials)

It's impossible to give you any kind of specific advice, and foolish to give you any illegal advice. You're not going to find what you're looking for here, but you might in an attorney's office. Be sure you seek out a qualified attorney, one with IP training/experience. (Intellectual Properties, Copyrights, Licensing, Entertainment... etc.)

Here are a few links you might find useful.

http://www.kantor.com/useful/Legal-R...tographers.pdf
http://www.publaw.com/photo.html

Read those sights ALL THE WAY THROUGH, twice, and you'll have an idea just how sticky your situation probably is, and why you will need an attorney.

There are rights to privacy issues, Rights to publicity issues, 'fair use' issues, 'newsworthiness' issues... it's a can of worms. Welcome to documentary filmmaking. I'm married to an IP attorney, and often as not, the answer I get to any question is "Maybe... all depends"

Obviously, anyone who has signed a consent release will consent to the use of the footage. When you start shooting people without their consent, using footage about personal 'embarrasing' information, shooting when they have a reasonable expectation of privacy... you're asking for lawsuits.

So you gotta ask yourself, since anyone can sue anyone over anything, how much 'exposure' are you comfortable with?
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Old November 22nd, 2007, 07:38 PM   #5
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Press credentials are given to the press. Do you publish a newspaper or magazine? Do you broadcast over the airwaves/cable?
Well, everything Richard said is true... but I did not suggest that you get press credentials.

I suggested you work with the press... i.e. your local ABC, NBC, CBS or FOX affiliate- or another group with that kind of backing. (Maybe Reuters or AP)

Those organizations get their "rights of the press" by virtue of their national reputation as news organizations, and their armies of lawyers who can go to bat over these issues. In other words they are prepared and equipped to fight for their stories.

Also since Richard brought up "bloggers" then realize that while there is a debate over whether or not those "organizations" qualify as "press" nobody anywhere is going to stand up and say that ABC isn't a news organization.

The best way to get the "rights of the press" is to go to university, get a degree in journalism and video/film production, and get a job at one of those places.

Starting a press is also a legitimate way to become press- but its harder, takes longer and costs a lot of money. A bunch of which is spent on lawyers.

You don't talk about the situation- but you should also be aware that if you are covering illegal activities then perhaps you should be working with law enforcement. But definitely not until after you consult an attorney.

So, have you talked to a lawyer yet? That should be your very first step.

If you think that the lawyers in your town are "part of the story" then get in your car and drive a few towns over and talk to a lawyer there... go further if you must.
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Old November 23rd, 2007, 03:48 PM   #6
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So, have you talked to a lawyer yet? That should be your very first step.
well... While, the documentary I'm filming has the potential to upset a few people, my plan was to film everything I could, to get the story out and consult with an attorney before releasing anything. I think I might have bitten off a little more than I can chew at this point... I've been working on this project for over a year now. The story has gotten deeper and darker than I ever could have imagined. I love the work and where it's gone so far but I fear it might be above me. But I know that in order for someone to break barriers it's almost necessary to bend a few rules. My plan is to get the public heavily involved toward the release so that I'd have the people behind me.... If the people don't know about anything before release then I'm going to get thrown to the wolves. I still have a few things left to do before I can wrap things up, though. So basically, I've put a few things on youtube.com just to get everyones attention. I've also submitted a few pieces of my research on wikimmunity.org to get people involved and ready for it's release.

If your interested in viewing some of my material on the documentary you can go here http://youtube.com/watch?v=DSdwK3L9V28 (this footage was released when we were investigating the ritualistic activities in certain hots spots. However, the more we researched the higher up the food chain we got... It's not just about kids anymore)
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Old November 24th, 2007, 09:53 PM   #7
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There are so many "is it legal?" questions that get posted here all the time.

I think the more important question is "will I get sued?"

In our society its possible to sue just about anyone for anything, and chances are if you get people angry enough at you that you will get sued. Just because you didn't break any laws, doesn't mean your not protected from a lawsuit.

Alot of people ask, "how does the news get away with this?" Well I can tell you from experience the news doesn't always get away with stuff... we have to be very careful to get permission to be on private property and alot of times people refuse to go on camera. And news organizations do get sued, and frequently the lawsuits are settled out of court- its just part of the cost of doing business for some larger news organizations.

When doing a documentary on a sensitive issue, like your suggesting I would say get a lawyer, follow his/her advice, and maybe purchase insurance for when you get sued to cover the cost of those settlements.
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Old November 26th, 2007, 09:49 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by Justin Mosley View Post
And what about hidden cameras? Can I film anyone as long as his or her identity is concealed? Or can I be sued for invasion of privacy for capturing there voice without consent?
You can film anyone as long as the camera is on a public street or a public place. But if a source that provides information to your documentary explicitly tells you that he/she does not want to be filmed, would that be the right thing to do?

Not sure how explosive yoru story is going to be. I think what I would do in this case is interview the person, write detailed minutes, and have a friend that I can trust be present at the interview, someone who could, should that ever be necessary, testify that key statements that your documentary is based on where really made by the sources. You could then even interview your friend, who could speak on camera about the conversations with the sources.

It sounds like your sources feel they need to be protected. You should not ignore this request, no matter whether a legal workaround exists or not.

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Old November 26th, 2007, 11:19 AM   #9
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I really appreciate everyone’s comments! They’ve been very helpful! I have one more question. Keep in mind that I do plan on speaking to an attorney about all the questions I've posted, but I'm curious about other filmmaker’s experiences. During my research I sometimes have to put myself in situations\locations that would be considered trespassing and the like. If I film these locations and do not get caught while filming can legal action be taken against me if these locations appear in the film with me clearly trespassing? Could I conceal my own identity during these scenes to protect myself?
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Old November 26th, 2007, 12:04 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Justin Mosley View Post
I really appreciate everyone’s comments! They’ve been very helpful! I have one more question. Keep in mind that I do plan on speaking to an attorney about all the questions I've posted, but I'm curious about other filmmaker’s experiences. During my research I sometimes have to put myself in situations\locations that would be considered trespassing and the like. If I film these locations and do not get caught while filming can legal action be taken against me if these locations appear in the film with me clearly trespassing? Could I conceal my own identity during these scenes to protect myself?
For it to be trespassing you would have had to be on private property. And showing recognizable private property without a written release could expose you to suit. You might not be liable for criminal tresspass charges but you still probably need releases. Concealing your identity on camera doesn't affect that - as the producer of the film you're still responsible for securing all the releases required.

Viewing the clip you posted, I'm wondering just what you're so paranoid about. Wiccan practices, whether they are by serious adherents of the religion or just a bunch of Goth kids pretending to be witches and warlocks is old news and nothing especially controversial. If you've discovered a group doing real human sacrifice and had tangible evidence or secret camera footage or something like that it might be another story but uncovering that somebody has been carving pentagrams on tree trunks in an oak grove isn't news or even particularly unusual. Wicca is just another minority religion and as cults go it's pretty mainstream. It's kind of like "exposing" the fact you've got some Scientologists living in the neighborhood.
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Old November 26th, 2007, 01:19 PM   #11
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Justin, the answers to your questions are IN the links I gave you. Read them over carefully.

Trespassing on private property is a crime. If you do it, and show video of it, yes you could be prosecuted for trespassing. You'll be no better than those stupid kids who shoot videos of themselves doing something illegal and then post it on YouTube. "Thanks for the evidence" the police and opposing attorney will say.

Seriously, READ THE LINKS I gave you. And then ask the attorney you have on standby. No one here is going to give you legal advice.
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Old November 27th, 2007, 11:59 AM   #12
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Viewing the clip you posted, I'm wondering just what you're so paranoid about. Wiccan practices, whether they are by serious adherents of the religion or just a bunch of Goth kids pretending to be witches and warlocks is old news and nothing especially controversial. If you've discovered a group doing real human sacrifice and had tangible evidence or secret camera footage or something like that it might be another story but uncovering that somebody has been carving pentagrams on tree trunks in an oak grove isn't news or even particularly unusual. Wicca is just another minority religion and as cults go it's pretty mainstream. It's kind of like "exposing" the fact you've got some Scientologists living in the neighborhood.

I understand your response to the video! However, the documentary isn't about Wiccan or Pagan religions at all! lol in a nutshell.... The documentary exposes high-ranking officials and underground cults that are deeply involved with black masses (NOT Wicca or Pagan practices). The documentary also exposes facts about an underground tunnel systems used for such practices; I have interviewed members and ex-members of several cults living in the Athens, TX area. I've documented several "hidden" areas used for ritualistic activities. The most interesting part though, is the dark history of this small Texas town. I've had very interesting encounters while researching certain areas, and I think people will really enjoy the fruits of our research.
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Old November 27th, 2007, 12:02 PM   #13
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No one here is going to give you legal advice.
I'm not trying to get legal advise. I just wanted to see if anyone had been in this type of situation before. That way when I talk to my attorney I can bring up points discussed on this forum so we don't miss anything. thank you for the links btw
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