In my post on 1 April, Have you made your million dollars yet?, I wrote:
Many development film-makers like to decry our society’s obsession with money, consumerism and greed. Some would make films that passionately promote sharing ideas and resources at community level, and advocate common property resources over private ownership.
But when it comes to rights of their own film/s, these very film-makers would become extremely possessive: they want to restrict it in every conceivable way.
This came up during a session at the OUR Media 6 conference in Sydney yesterday.
Andrew Lowenthal, from EngageMedia in Australia, talked on ‘Online video for social action’ and presented what his non-profit organisation is doing.
As their website says:
EngageMedia is a website and a network for distributing social justice and environmental video from South East Asia, Australia and the Pacific. It is a space for critical documentary, fiction, artistic and experimental works that challenge the one-way communication model of the mainstream media.
Andrew said they currently host around 120 videos online, all offered for free public access at the moment. They are keen to add more titles to this collection, to build an online, engaged community of film makers and film viewers.
But as we discussed, many film makers aren’t yet ready or willing to give their films to be placed online.
“Some of them freak out at the very mention of being placed online. They ask how their copyright can be safeguarded, and how they can make money,” Andrew noted.
Fred Noronha, who has campaigned for a long time for Indian documentary makers to open up and share their films, agreed. “Many film-makers are apprehensive. They aren’t broadcasting, or webcasting their productions. They just show it at a few film festivals. Many films don’t go out to the wider public.”
At TVE Asia Pacific, we come across this all the time. As a non-commercial, non-exclusive distributor, we ask film-makers to share distribution rights while copyright stays firmly with them. Even then, many are not convinced.
Of course, each creative professional is entitled to the full returns of their investment of time, effort and creativity. But let’s not forget: many films, especially those on development issues (which covers health, education, environment, ICT, science in development and human rights, among others), are made with development funding or philanthropic grants. Which means the production costs are largely or entirely paid for.
Yet when such films are made, their creators would rather hang on to them than let them go. Copyright is one concern they cite. ‘Returns on investment’ is another. (Hmmm…if a film has been paid for by public/donor funds, returns to whom?)
Creative Commons offers a good way forward, and we had a presentation from CC Australia on this during the session. More about that later.