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Old June 3rd, 2004, 01:24 AM   #1
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Copyright questions about the film "Supersize Me"

Does anyone know how the film didn't get nailed for copyright restrictions. i mean, there's images of McDonald's restaurants throughout the whole film, their toys, their drinks, their food, their employees. did McDonald's explicitly agree to all this or is there something i'm missing here?

similarly, if anyone knows how the "bowling for columbine" production didn't get in trouble for showing the footage of dick clark and charleston heston, i'm really curious. the dick clark footage in particular seems very damaging and i'm assuming dick clark didn't later authorize it, so what's going on here?
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Old June 3rd, 2004, 01:36 AM   #2
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How could you ever have a negative documentary if you always had to seek permission to portray the subject of the documentary? The filmmakers are acting as journalists commenting on a public issue or about public entities. All of those you named are public entities. As public entities, neither McDonalds nor Clark have the same privacy protections as private individuals have (though they have a right to allow whoever they want or bar whoever they want from their property). McDonalds could have kicked the filmmaker out of its restaurants and barred him from entering their grounds just as Dick Clark can close the door on Michael Moore as he tried to stick a microphone into his van. But that doesn't mean the filmmaker can't roll the cameras in the attempt. The use of images can be covered under parody use or as fair comment. If after viewing the film it looks like there are mistakes or malicious misrepresentations, then Clark and McDonalds can sue.
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Old June 3rd, 2004, 01:45 AM   #3
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Are you saying that filming a McDonald's restaurant without permission is legal for a fair comment documentary but illegal for a narrative film?
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Old June 3rd, 2004, 06:57 AM   #4
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Allen, it sounds like you're looking for a black and white answer and concerning copyrights, some things are left to interpretation. In answer to your question, you can film events and places that are newsworthy, without permission. Recognized media (papers, TV crews, some documentary work) has certain exclusions concerning copyrights. If they didn't you'd never have a nightly news.

Your filming on private, or even public places (in some instances) is restricted. These restrictions are really over control of the image. For example, I control the use of my image and it can be based on privacy and my right to profit from my image. However, should I do something news worthy, then I've given up some of those rights.
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Old June 3rd, 2004, 11:33 AM   #5
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<<<-- Originally posted by Allen Nash : Are you saying that filming a McDonald's restaurant without permission is legal for a fair comment documentary but illegal for a narrative film? -->>>

I'm no lawyer but in a documentary, you are making a statement of fact (the presentation of which is open to dispute). In a narrative you are making fiction. A documentary is reality-based so you have the protection of fact in the event of a legal problem. In a narrative story you made it all up.

Also note that in "Supersize Me"most of the fat people were filmed so that their identities were not apparent. All the other people who appeared in the film likely signed releases from the doctors to the interview subjects. Perhaps even the staff at McDonalds. In the crowd scenes people passing by probably were not tracked down for releases because it would have been too difficult to.

In both cases, prior to distribution (hopefully also in preproduction) you would have lawyers who would try to determine the exposure of the production to lawsuits. So you couldn't absolutely say whether or not it is legal to film in a location without permission. And, as I said, any property owner can throw you out of a place.
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