The last 2 months have been taken up with deciding on which films I would like to work with, securing the permission of those that own the films and getting copies on tape. I have permission to use 10 films, only one person said no and for sound reasons, so all good.
Some notes on what I understand of copyright:
Copyright is the right of a person who makes a thing to say who can, and who can’t, copy it. The type of thing varies, and the rules vary with the type of thing. For a painting, copyright lasts for the artist’s life + 75 years (at present), meaning the estate (family etc.) of the producer has copyright after their death, presumably ensuring that those who paid for and were part of the production also benefit from it or have the final say in its use. There are other rights; moral rights, design rights, performance rights, and it is worth noting that contract law trumps copyright. You can ‘assign’ copyright, (give it to someone in particular) or you can make it copyright free, in effect emancipating it; projects such as Creative Commons and Copyleft look at the political issues and implications of copyright law and offer alternatives. The Digital Economy Bill went through Parliament this year after much (unresloved) discussion – a massive tangle of conflicting interests and ideas as to how to protect producers versus making material available amongst many other things.
The NWFA doesn’t take on the copyright of the films they accept, it remains with the existing copyright holder except under exceptional circumstances, which means the archive is unable to give away the copyright, or make a film copyright free. They wouldn’t want to either; the NWFA project relies significantly on the trust contributors have in the archive to look after their films in a certain way.
The contributors vary on how open or not to they are to their material being used by others. The database at the archive has the details of their preferences, and the contact details for putting forward your case should they not be one of the donator’s with ‘no need to contact’ in the use field.