Documentary film is our record of the world as it truly is, but when a sign, logo, image, even a building makes it into the frame, filmmakers face an absurd choice: risk lawsuit, or blur it out. An interview with a popular song in the background, however briefly, lands on the cutting room floor. Film clips, however essential to the telling of the story, are often off limits or available for a fee larger than the budget of the film. Abuse of copyright law amounts to censorship, say many documentary filmmakers, and they’re speaking up.

The Full Frame Film Festival and Duke Law School’s Center for the Study of the Public Domain are teaming up for a one-day conference during the festival. “Framed!: How Law Constructs and Constrains Culture” will bring together filmmakers, musicians and legal experts to discuss the complexities of law and art and the need for balance between copyright protection and free expression. The Friday, April 2, conference is free and open to the public if you register in advance by emailing

Full Frame’s organizers have made unprecedented progress in bringing Hollywood’s big-name archivists together with independent directors in order to negotiate fair solutions to these problems, and Duke’s intellectual property experts are at the cutting edge of this field. Guests will include Chris Hegedus, director of and The War Room, Negativland member Mark Hosler, and several big minds from Creative Commons, a non-profit working on copyright alternatives. This is a rare opportunity to gain an understanding of the big picture.

“Framed!” conference on creativity and copyright, Friday, April 2, 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Duke Law School, Room 3043,