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“A Business Pure and Simple:” Film, Copyright, and Problems for Defining Authorship.

Sellors, C. Paul



I examine the underlying, and somewhat incompatible principles of hermeneutic, legal (UK), and empirical definitions of authorship. In this analysis I consider how the distinction between film as business and film as artistic expression, a distinction at the heart of the Mutual Film Corporation v. Ohio State Censorship Ordinance case heard in the US Supreme Court in 1915, still resonates through our understanding of authorship. No longer considered incompatible, both sides of this distinction are now enshrined in UK Copyright Act (1988), with the producer and principle director recognised as joint authors. This combination seems to recognise film as both entrepreneurial and artistic, a move which appears consistent with an empirical analysis of authorship. However, by considering the director as a joint author, copyright law rests on a critical assumption about 'the director' evident in the debate about the censorship of The Birth of a Nation (1915) and in the pages of publications such as Cahiers du cinéma, rather than on the empirical analysis of the production and communication of ideas granted to the makers of other artistic works.


Sellors, C. P. (2011, June). “A Business Pure and Simple:” Film, Copyright, and Problems for Defining Authorship

Presentation Conference Type Conference Paper (unpublished)
Start Date Jun 28, 2011
End Date Jun 28, 2011
Publication Date Jun 28, 2011
Deposit Date Jun 17, 2015
Peer Reviewed Not Peer Reviewed
Keywords Authorship; film; UK Copyright Act (1988);
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