Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Revised Movie Policy appears on Discussion List

Stephen Kercher has posted a long message, proposing that we revise the movie policy to allow films on campus again. I'll just post the complete message for now:

Dear Campus Community:

Several weeks ago I reported here that several members of the History Department were meeting with Petra Roter, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, to discuss the impact of new restrictions being placed on student groups' film series.

Last Thursday, a group of faculty from History, Foreign Languages and Communications convened with Petra and Reeve Union Director Randy Hedge to discuss the issue.

The discussion afforded all of us an opportunity to better understand how the opposing sides have formulated their perspectives. It yielded no compromise, however, since the opposing sides interpret the Copyright Act of 1976--and amendments made to it in later years--very differently.

Citing an expanding body of literature on the subject of copyright law and the opinions of legal professionals who have engaged the debate in recent times, those of us opposed to the new restrictions focus on two important sections of the law: Title 17, Section 107 and Title 17, Section 110.

Section 107 outlines conditions under which a "fair use" of a film ("for nonprofit educational purposes") might not constitute "an infringement of copyright." According to a very helpful guide provided by UW System Legal (see, the "fair use exception is a four-factor test that balances the rights of copyright owners in their creations against the public interest in the free exchange of ideas....Use of a copyrighted work need not satisfy all four factors to qualify as fair use; rather, the factors favoring fair use must outweigh the factors favoring obtaining permission."

Section 110 codifies a different, but equally viable exception--The Teaching Exception. Section 110 stipulates that the "performance or display of a work by instructors or pupils in the course of face-to-face teaching activities of a nonprofit educational institution, in a classroom or similar place devoted to instruction" is not an infringement of copyright.

Three members of the History Department have submitted to Petra a proposal for a new movie policy on campus. Anyone interested in reading a draft of the proposal may find it at:

We welcome any feedback members of our community may wish to provide. Please share your thoughts with us individually or here on the listserv.

Although those who attended the meeting disagreed on many points, we shared the view that decisions affecting the pedagogy and intellectual climate of this university ought to be made after careful, respectful and transparent deliberation. And we affirmed our belief that instances of threats and intimidation--particularly when aimed at the students we teach--have no place on this campus and should never be tolerated.


Stephen Kercher


Anonymous said...

This seems to me (as a student) that the revised policy proposed is more understanding of our purpose as a University. The guidelines now in place are far too restrictive to serve any real purpose. Its narrow thinking seems to be a knee jerk reaction to a small issue. How come the students haven't heard more about this issue on campus? Or am I just not on campus enough? I think that when properly used (as proposed in the guidelines from the history department) movies are a significant medium for ideas, and they are ideas that can positively impact the student body.

S.B. said...

You ought to check out the front page of this week's Advance-Titan, fellow student...

Lake Winneblogo said...

The story did make it in to the A-T! Good for them!

However, why didn't the author speak to the professors who raised the issue? Will there be an article this week, that interviews Kercher or the other for their side of the story?

Justin Mitchell said...

Regarding number 5. - Attendance at any film screened by a student group on campus should be limited to students, faculty, and staff of UW Oshkosh. Student groups screening films should check student identifications before a film can be shown.

That seems backwards. Isn't one element of the university educating and serving the communities in which they exist? What is the Wisconsin Idea - has it now become separatist and elitist since i left school?

Being facetious... It would be ironic to organize an evening with, say, Ray McGovern, including a talk followed by a movie he is touring with. What would happen, first Howard gives his talk, and then we ask him to leave for the movie because he doesn't have the proper ID?

Also, this policy seems too strict, in that there doesn't seem to be room for screening films that explicitly state that screening is free and open to anyone. Often times political films are made to be shown freely and will offer a disclaimer.

Also, as a student organizer, I would often write to a film producer and receive a written permission to screen the film in the setting described - usually reeve ballroom open to everyone.

Maybe I'm reading this the wrong way though. Blogo, what do you thing?

Anonymous said...


This policy would be only one part of the movie showing protocol on campus.

You would always be able to contact the copyright holder and get permission to show her film. I would imagine that the series that shows second-run films (I think they were showing Date Movie last week) pay a fee to show the film.

A movie series that was open to the public should either pay a licensing fee or have a letter from the copyright owner giving permsision.

We are trying to balance the copyright law with the most expansive reading of fair-use we can establish.

Now that you mention it, I can see how the permission/payment process has dropped out of our discussion and might be confusing.

Karl Loewenstein

Lake Winneblogo said...

Has anyone heard what has become of this policy? No one seems to be discussing it anymore.