I recently read an interesting little piece about copyright in comic book form, “Tales From the Public Domain: Bound by Law?” by Keith Aoki, James Boyle, and Jennifer Jenkins. It can be found at http://web.law.duke.edu/cspd/comics/zoomcomic.html .
The comic book series, produced by the Duke Center for Study of the Public Domain, focuses in particular on the arts, and on issues related between intellectual property and the public domain.
The focus of this particular issue dealt with the creation of documentary films. Nowadays, with the advances in technology, readily available and inexpensive technology, and access to materials of all types and formats, just about anyone can decide to make a documentary. It is becoming increasingly important for the layperson to be familiar with copyright laws; what they are for and how to navigate them.
Besides its format, what I find interesting about this tutorial about copyright issues is its focus on both aspects of copyright laws; that is, the laws are intended to protect works as well as foster and promote creativity by giving artists access to raw materials.
Artists should be aware that unreasonable denials of fair use have and do occur. Knowledge and understanding of major court rulings, for example, can help artists in their pursuit of the fair use of copyrighted materials for their artistic creations. One example is cited where a court ruled in favor of artist Tom Forsythe, who was sued by Mattel for using transformed images of Barbie dolls for a parody that he had created. The court ruled that the lawsuit was “…objectively unreasonable and frivolous,” and ordered Mattel to pay “substantial attorney fees.”
More information about copyright produced by the Duke Center for Study of the Public Domain can be found at http://web.law.duke.edu/cspd/ .