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Outside the classroom: Windsor law copyright students meet film makers

Pascale Chapdelaine, Associate Professor Windsor Law

In March 2018, my copyright law students and I went to the Faculty of Creative Arts downtown campus.  There, Professor Kim Nelson and graduate students presented short films they had produced. They explained their creative choices and constraints, and brought up what they perceived to be possible legal issues, and how they addressed them. They answered questions from the law students on particular issues that triggered the students’ imagination and legal minds.

After the visit, the law students had to submit a short written assignment either in the form of a legal essay or a memorandum of best legal practices. The law students were asked to reflect on the film making process, on how the film makers perceived the law and on the norms and practices that they developed around it, and in turn, on how this could influence their creative choices. For the best legal practices memorandum, law students had to wear their counsel’s hat,  identify legal issues and possible solutions with respect to the films that they saw. This included  the filming of trade-marks and logos, of graffiti and street art, tattoos,  incorporation of third party footage, how the film was disseminated (presented at film festivals, posted on you tube) etc. Students had to consider the panoply of copyright exclusive rights implicated (exclusive right to produce, reproduce, communicate to the public by telecommunication, performance in public) as well as the exceptions to these exclusive rights that may apply (e.g. fair dealing, right of panorama, incidental inclusion, etc.).

I was impressed by the quality of the written assignments. Some students reflected on the “clearance culture” that the legal regime of copyright created, on how this may impede the creative process and at how greater flexibility in the use of third party copyright material may be warranted in some cases.  Other students reflected on the difficulty for art students to obtain legal support and proposed solutions to that effect.  The reflections made by the law students in their written assignments through the films they saw and through their encounters with film makers illustrate the value of experiential learning: it brings a dimension and perspective that can often not be found in textbooks.


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