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Assessing the Social Impact of Issues-Focused Documentaries: Research Methods & Future Considerations

The resources available to assess the social impact of issues-focused documentaries have increased during the digital era. And yet, making the decision about which research methods (and tools) to use to examine the social impact of storytelling may be a challenge within the ecosystem of creators and strategists working in the pursuit of storytelling for social change. At the same time, research methods from social science – in the fields of communication/media studies, social psychology, political science and sociology – have been tested in decades of published studies. This white paper provides a breakdown of social science and market research methods to clearly explain the benefits and limitations of using each one to understand issue-focused documentaries in particular. We examine a group of branded media-impact tools now available, dissecting their underlying research approaches and the ways in which they work optimally to help tell a story about the social impact of storytelling.


Go to: Assessing the Social Impact of Issues-Focused Documentaries (PDF)

Documentarians, Fair Use and Best Practices

In the summer of 2014, Center Directer Patricia Aufderheide and Rutgers University's Aram Sinnreich conducted a national survey of 489 documentary filmmakers. The preliminary results show that a great majority of documentary filmmakers understand fair use, find it valuable in their work, and have had no trouble with acceptance by broadcasters, lawyers or insurers.


INFOGRAPHIC: Can I Employ Fair Use In My Documentary?

A survey of 489 documentary filmmakers by Patricia Aufderheide and Aram Sinnreich found that since the 2005 creation of the Documentary Filmmakers’ Statement of Best Practices in Fair Use, the film industry has increasingly embraced fair useToday, attitudes about fair use are positive, strongly associated with free expression and creative opportunity. Most documentary filmmakers understand fair use, find it valuable in their work, and have had no trouble with acceptance by broadcasters, lawyers or insurers. 


Copyright, Permissions and Fair Use in the Visual Arts Communities: An Issues Report

CAA Fair Use in Visual ArtsThe visual arts communities of practice share a common problem in their confusion about and misunderstanding of the nature of copyright law and the availability of fair use. Their work is constrained and censored, most powerfully by themselves, because of that confusion and the resulting fear and anxiety. More and better work can be done through a fuller understanding of copyright, without impairing the ability of artists and art historians to receive credit for, maintain appropriate control over, and monetize their work.


INFOGRAPHIC: Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Academic and Research Libraries

Infographic libraryARL, American University's (AU) Washington College of Law, and AU's School of Communication released a new infographic that tells the story of library fair use and the Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Academic and Research Libraries in a clear and compelling way. The infographic is freely available as a full-size PDF, an embeddable PNG for blogs and website, and a print-ready 8.5” x 11” PDF to print and hand out at events. [SOURCE: ARL.org]


Report on Orphan Works Challenges: for libraries, archives, and other memory institutions

Orphan works pose significant challenges to nonprofit libraries, archives, and other memory organizations. When these organizations seek to reuse orphan works—copyrighted works whose owners cannot be located—they face the perceived risk of costly infringement suits from copyright owners who might later emerge. But libraries, archives and other memory organizations hold many orphan works in their collections, and risk averse organizations that do not make these works available may fail to fulfill part of their core missions of preserving cultural and intellectual artifacts and providing access to users in a format and context that is meaningful to them.


Go to: Report on Orphan Works Challenges

Fair Use Documents

View research and resources on fair use for creative communities including journalists, communication scholars, online video makers, and documentary filmmakers.


Success of Fair Use Consensus Documents

Does the approach of creating a consensus documents, anchored in professional practice, actually work to expand the utility of fair use? What has happened to others who used consensus documents to gain access to their rights? This topic is discussed at length in Aufderheide and Jaszi, Reclaiming Fair Use (University of Chicago Press, 2011), but some specific examples are listed here.


Copyright, Free Speech, and the Public's Right to Know: How Journalists Think about Fair Use

This study, resulting from long-form interviews with 80 journalists, finds that journalistic mission is in peril because of lack of clarity around copyright and fair use.  Journalists’ professional culture is highly conducive to a robust employment of their free speech rights under the copyright doctrine of fair use, but their actual knowledge of fair use practice is low. 


Social Justice Documentary: Designing For Impact

Designing For ImpactThe transition from 1.0 to 2.0 opens opportunities for documentarians to fulfill and expand their missions—not only informing individuals and leading public conversation but also building community cohesion and participation. This working paper aims to synthesize current efforts to develop comparable evaluation methods for social issue documentary films. Authored by two researchers who have been jointly documenting the field’s transformation over the past five years, this paper offers a framework for planning and evaluating the impact of these films in a networked media environment.