Penn Program on Documentaries and the Law

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From the Program’s homepage:

Lawyers need to be knowledgeable participants in the cultural and social debates such films provoke about the significance of our roles in the creation and maintenance of a just, democratic society. To fulfill this role, we need to have the critical tools to analyze what the makers of such documentaries are literally and figuratively telling their audiences about what it is that the law and lawyers do. At the same time, the law impacts the stories professional filmmakers tell. No documentary filmmaker today can ignore the creative rights of others based on copyright law, the restrictions on content imposed by the torts of defamation and invasion of privacy, or the obligations to subjects that are grounded in the legal norms of fraud and informed consent. As a result, lawyers who understand both the law and the creative process are now an integral part of documentary film production.

Video from the Program’s two Roundtable conferences is available here. As to the most recent Roundtable, Feminist Law Prof Regina Austin notes:

Dr. Gretchen Berland of the Yale Medical School has really given a great deal of thought to what cameras can do to enable professionals to learn more about their patients’ or clients’ lives and Michigan Professor Carol Jacobsen is a very committed video artist/activist who is dedicated to improving the lives of women prisoners. Of course, 3L Michael Wong’s film “Shmul Kaplan” tells the story not only of a survivor of Nazi and Soviet repression of Jews, but also of a class action lawsuit that aided thousands of asylum seekers and refuges in need of SSI benefits.

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