Two meaty stories to get you started. IRA member George Robinson pointed out this well-done article in LA Weekly on the fair-use of film clips in documentaries, fictional films and so on. The new docu "This Film Is Not Yet Rated" plans to use itself as a test case -- arguing its many uses of clips need not be cleared or paid for because they fall under Fair Use. And anyone seeing the film would have to agree, none of the clips are lengthy to an unreasonable degree, none would conceivably make someone decide they didn't need to see a film because they'd seen a 30 second clip already and the clips are clearly used for a valid purpose. (Not Fiar Use would be doing a docu on John Wayne and showing, say, ten minutes in one chunk from "The Searchers.") The piece lays all of the issues out quite well. The copyright laws, which have extended copyrights from 28 years to author's life plus 75 years, are absurd. One caveat: the piece claims movie studios own 2/3rds or more of all copyrights, which seems impossible. Maybe 1000 films (an extremely generous figure) are released each year. But easily 100,000 books are published each year, 10,000+ CDs and so on. How could movie studios possibly own 2/3rds of all copyrights?
And the LA Times has a good article on how animation studios screw writers out of residuals for the scripts they write for the likes of "Shrek 2." Animated movies have been a scam for a while: actors love to do them (they're quick and easy, relatively speaking) and they like making a movie for their kids. But these are massively popular blockbusters; why should actors do them basically for free?