Legal Issues Media

Example of the ridiculousness of copyright clearance

Story originally from Lessig Blog and the BBC.

At the Cannes Film Festival, a film named Tarnation is wowing the critics and crowds…impressing Gus Van Sant and John Cameron Mitchell to sign on as producers and attempt to get the film a distributor. It’s the story told via a series of filmed narratives of the director and subject since he was 11, as he deals with his mother’s mental illness.

The copyright problem here is this: the director/star/subject (Jonathan Caouette) estimates that the film cost a total of $218 to make. That’s the cost of the videotapes, and the one prop he purchased solely for the film (a pair of angels wings).

Cost to clear the rights to the images/music that he used in editting the film together?


By griffey

Jason Griffey is the Director of Strategic Initiatives at NISO, where he works to identify new areas of the information ecosystem where standards expertise is useful and needed. Prior to joining NISO in 2019, Jason ran his own technology consulting company for libraries, has been both an Affiliate at metaLAB and a Fellow and Affiliate at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, and was an academic librarian in roles ranging from reference and instruction to Head of IT at the University of TN at Chattanooga.

Jason has written extensively on technology and libraries, including multiple books and a series of full-periodical issues on technology topics, most recently AI & Machine Learning in Libraries and Library Spaces and Smart Buildings: Technology, Metrics, and Iterative Design from 2018. His newest book, co-authored with Jeffery Pomerantz, will be published by MIT Press in 2024.

He has spoken internationally on topics such as artificial intelligence & machine learning, the future of technology and libraries, decentralization and the Blockchain, privacy, copyright, and intellectual property. A full list of his publications and presentations can be found on his CV.
He is one of eight winners of the Knight Foundation News Challenge for Libraries for the Measure the Future project (, an open hardware project designed to provide actionable use metrics for library spaces. He is also the creator and director of The LibraryBox Project (, an open source portable digital file distribution system.

Jason can be stalked obsessively online, and spends his free time with his daughter Eliza, reading, obsessing over gadgets, and preparing for the inevitable zombie uprising.

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