Friday, May 05, 2006

Some thoughts on the use of Hollywood movies in the Church

As any one who has read this blog would know i have been thinking long and hard about the minefield that surrounds Copyright laws in regards to use of Movies.
So here are some guidelines that I have made available, they are not legal or sanctioned by the Diocese only my suggestions.

1 If you are showing a movie ALWAYS seek guidance from parents - In
regards to rating M and PG require parental or guardian's permission, my
understanding has been that as a leader you are operating in a temporary
guardian role for the time of youth group. Not sure how or if this would
stack up in a court case, but then I doubt that you could be sued for
showing PG or M movies (though I could be wrong here). It does draw up the
importance of seeking parental permission for all youth activities, and
ensuring that parents understand this. This could be done on a weekly basis
with signed permission slips, or you could draw up a term permission slip -

2. The law is somewhat fuzzy over what you can and can't show and in
what context - I came across a Canadian company that edits and distributes
Hollywood movies taking the objectionable content out. While it sounds like
a great idea it would be illegal to do it here in NZ (in fact I suspect it
is illegal in Canada also). We do have the power to fast forward though.
And there are other ways of censoring:

* Stop the tape and talk about it, why do we need to censor this
scene, allow the young people to form them selves by looking at the moral
issues connected with this.
* Turn it into a game, 'Ok the scene that follows is dodgy, so we
are going to act out our own clean, healthy and smut free version of this' -
I have done this several times and it can be a lot of fun.
* Turn the volume down and improvise a voice over or if it's the
images you may be able to blank the image keep the soundtrack and improvise
alternate actions.

3. As for context, educational establishment are allowed to use movies
and videos for review, criticism, research and study. It could be argued
that the Church is an educational establishment - in which case we can use
clips in the course of a bible study or sermon. In a recent paper I
received from Australia (there copyright law is as far as I can tell the
same) a lawyer interpreted fair use of video in terms of illustrating versus
reviewing or critiquing. What that means is to play an extract from a movie
because it illustrates a point you are making in a sermon is an infringement
of copyright, it doesn't fall into educational criteria, however to give a
talk that is reviewing the ideas contained in a movie you do not need
permission to play extracts from the film. While that does sound rather
complicated I think it can be understood simply, if you describe a scenario
and then play a video clip to say it's like this - your breaking copyright.
But if you play a clip and then draw out or review what it is saying about
an issue then you're reviewing, not illustrating. When I use video even
prior to me becoming aware of this I used it in this way rather than
illustrating. It's a fine line.

4. If you think you are using it in this way then you can still only
use 10% of a movie as fair use.

5. So can you show a video to a youth group for a youth activity, again
it is not clear? The issue is that you are not allowed to show video's in
'public' without permission. What is 'public' well if it's a group of
friends sitting in a lounge in the context of a bible study then it is not
considered a public performance. But an advertised youth group or church
activity may be considered 'public' in which case permission is needed. As
you can imagine it is hard to police and even harder to know when I am
breaking the law or not. What I suggest then is if you are going to show
video's do so in a parent's home, AND DO NOT CHARGE. Apart from covering
yourself legally you are also creating a space where young people can
interact with adults other than youth leaders - this I very important for
young people's development.

6. Under Australasian Law you can use music videos in the context of
worship without having to seek permission. APRA the body that covers this
considers worship to have the same rulings as showing video's in a house
(well it is the House of God..) The same applies to playing CD's

Other ways of working with the issue.

In the event that you want to form a talk around a movie you could also
encourage people to act out the scene - this actually works well, if you do
a Google search on the movie you want and quotes or scripts you will often
find what you need without having to sit down and write out the whole

The best illustrations from movies are the one's that everyone has
seen. If I was to say A long time ago in a galaxy far far away. I guarantee
that 90% at least of those you were talking to would know that it is the
opening scene of Star Wars.

Allow people's imaginations to work, use scenes that most people will know, describe the scene (maybe with a bit of drama).
Pick out memorable quotes to jog people's memories.
I think one of the problems we face with using movies is that they encourage people to be passive, the power of the scene when describing, illustrating or critiquing
an idea is that it draws people in, it touches them.
We do not always have to show the clip to do that, we can work on collective memory - "we've all scene this movie haven't we?" Emotion "while watching this movie I was
touched by this scene." describe it and why it touched you, what was so powerful about it. Still images, quotes and props may well help jog people's memories enough to draw them into the drama.

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