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Copyright law: definitions

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Dean Jane Morgan: Hello? Professor Stone?

Professor Stone: Hello, Dean Morgan. It’s nice to hear from you.

Dean Morgan: Yes, it’s been a while. I’ve been meaning to tell you how pleased I was to read your article in the last issue of the Law Review.

Professor Stone: Thanks. I’m glad you enjoyed it.

Dean Morgan: Actually, I’m calling to discuss the course you’ve been planning to teach—“The Role of the Judge Around the World: A Comparative Perspective”—is that right?

Professor Stone: Well, that’s just the working title. I’ll think of something snappier for the course bulletin.

Dean Morgan: I’m sure you will. So, tell me what you’ve got in mind for the course.

Professor Stone: I’m planning to use films and video clips that depict courtroom drama and the judicial role in legal traditions around the world. I want to use a multi-media approach to engage students in thinking about comparative law and cross-cultural perspectives. The films and articles I’ve chosen should lead to some good discussions about popular perceptions of different legal systems.

Dean Morgan: I’m glad you've added the caveat about popular perceptions. Legal systems, and trials in particular, are often misrepresented in popular culture.

Professor Stone: That’s one of the points I’m hoping to get across.

Dean Morgan: Good. So have you dealt with the copyright issues for the materials you’re planning to use? Do you need to get permissions? You’ll want to be sure you aren’t infringing anyone’s intellectual property rights.

Professor Stone: Well, I’ve selected most of the films and articles that I want to use, but I haven’t started looking at obtaining the rights to each individual work yet. I’m hoping the process won’t be much more complicated than it was for other class material I’ve prepared in the past.

Dean Morgan: Perhaps you’re right, but you can’t be sure that the doctrine of fair use will cover all of the materials you’re planning to use. Will you be using entire works, or just clips?

Professor Stone: Both. Each week I plan to present one full work and a series of excerpts. I also have a collection of reviews and criticism related to films about the law.

Dean Morgan: Hmm. And these materials represent the work of authors, directors, and producers around the world, right?

Professor Stone: Right.

Dean Morgan: I think the first thing you should do is take a close look at the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works. It’s the basis for most international copyright agreements. It’s been signed by 163 countries, so it should cover almost all of the source material you want to use. By the way, how old are the materials?

Professor Stone: Oh, the articles are fairly recent, but some of the movies are classics.

Dean Morgan: Well, some of the older movies may have entered the public domain by now. You can probably use them without worrying. You’ll need to check. The problem is that what is or is not in the public domain varies from country to country. You’ll have to do some research on each piece to find out if you need permission to use it.

Professor Stone: Hmm. It sounds a lot more complicated than I’d thought! I guess I’d better get to work if I want to get the course organized for the fall semester.

Dean Morgan: Well, let me know how it goes. You might have to consider offering it in the spring semester, or next year, to give you enough time to secure all of the permissions. Let me know if you need any help.

Professor Stone: Thanks. It’s been great talking with you. I’ll keep you posted.

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