Handleman Won't Sue Over Use Of "Bloodsisters"
by Mary Sampson
Filmmaker Michelle Handelman ("Bloodsisters") has decided not to pursue a
lawsuit over the unauthorized use of clips from her film by the American
Family Association (AFA) in their quest to end public funding of the
National Endowment of the Arts (NEA). The conservative AFA used clips from Handelman's film, which was partially financed with money from the NEA, to argue that public funding of the arts should be abolished. Clips from the film were mailed to every member of the U.S. Congress during the budget debate over whether or not
to continue funding the program with federal tax dollars. The effort by
the AFA failed and the program was given a modest increase for next
Handelman was not consulted by the AFA before sending clips of her film,
which deals with the world of S & M, to every member of Congress. Upon
learning of the incident, she publicly complained about the unauthorized
use of scenes from her film by a political group whose policies she
She soon learned, though, that the First Amendment protects such
political groups from legal action in most circumstances. In a follow-up to a previous indieWIRE story (use the indieWIRE search function to find this story), Handelman stated "After many talks with lawyers, it's been decided that there really isn't a copyright infringement here." Apparently, unless a group or individual knowingly
lies about the content of a work, or manipulates it in such a way that greatly misrepresents the artist's vision, the use of an image from such a work is legal if it is reproduced for educational purposes and not sold for profit.
Interestingly, the only precedent set so far for successful legal action
against the political use of an artists work involved the American
Family Association in another matter. They took one square inch of an
artist's collage and reproduced it saying it was the completed work. The
artist lost a libel charge against the group but won a claim under New
York's authorship law. He was awarded one dollar.
Handelman has decided to let the matter drop. More information on this
subject (courtesy of Ms. Handelman) will be posted in the Letters To The
Editor section of indieWIRE in the near future.
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