Fair Use in Documentary Film Discussion Clips


For each video, consider the following questions: Why is this video fair use? What specific categories of fair use does the video employ? What arguments can you make for why this video is fair use? Scroll to the bottom of the page to check your answers.

1. Giuliani Time – William Cole

In Giuliani Time, Williams Cole quoted contemporary newspapers, magazines and news broadcasts, illustrating Rudy Giuliani’s skill at commanding press attention. Cole employed fair use because he made limited use of archival materials to illustrate a specific historical observation.

2. 5 Girls – Maria Finitzo

In 5 Girls, Maria Finitzo filmed a teen party where Lauryn Hill song played in the background. She employed fair use because the girls chose for themselves to use that music, and their choices were part of the reality of their daily lives.

3. Hip Hop: Beyond Beats And Rhymes – Byron Hurt

Byron Hurt quoted from rapper Nelly’s “Tip Drill” in his film Beyond Beats and Rhymes. He employed fair use because the quoted material illustrated his argument about sexism in rap today.

4. Merchants of Cool – Barak Goodman

In the Frontline documentary “Merchants of Cool,” director Barak Goodman quoted a teen horror movie, I Still Know What You Did Last Summer, in a report on the marketing of popular culture to teens. He invoked fair use because this horror film is used as a point of reference for a discussion on the effect of media, sex and violence on teens

5. Game Over – Nina Huntemann

In Game Over, a documentary about the social effects of video games, Nina Huntemann quoted several video games to make the point that they have become even more realistic. The Media Education Foundation employed fair use, because these quotes provide a context for the filmmaker’s critical analysis of this kind of media.

6. Citizen King – Orlando Bagwell

In the American Experience documentary “Citizen King,” Orlando Bagwell used a central portion of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, in which the King estate claims copyright. He claimed fair use because the section was historically crucial and the King estate had refused to license the material to the American Experience producer, public TV station WGBH.

7.The Persuaders – Barak Goodman & Rachel Dretzin

In the Frontline documentary “The Persuaders,” directors Barak Goodman and Rachel Dretzin filmed an advertising team presenting a demo of a commercial featuring the tune “Downtown,” by Petula Clark. They invoked fair use for the song because they had not chosen it as a soundtrack element; rather the song was integral to the scene that they were capturing for other purposes.

8. Women’s Voices: The Gender Gap – Kartemquin Films

In Kartemquin Films’ Women’s Voices: The Gender Gap, made to encourage women to vote, stereotyping of women in media was critiqued through animation techniques. Kartemquin claimed fair use of the TV news clip because the film was commenting critically on the specific piece of media quoted.