Michael C. Donaldson

Michael C. Donaldson has been fighting for independent filmmakers for over thirty years. Dubbed the “‘legal Obi Wan Kenobi’ and fair use guru of the documentary film set” by the American Bar Association, Michael has gained a national reputation as an expert on clearance- and rights-related issues.  His work covers financing, production, and distribution in the U.S. and around the world. While serving as the President of the International Documentary Association, he successfully negotiated with the cable networks to prevent the wholesale migration of credits from the screen to the internet by organizing and leading the Documentary Credit Coalition. Michael has served on the Advisory Committee for the Documentary Filmmakers Statement of Best Practices in Fair Use and currently serves on the Advisory Committee of the Stanford Fair Use Project.  Michael is also General Counsel to Film Independent (home of the Independent Spirit Awards and the Los Angeles Film Festival) and to the Writers Guild Foundation. He successfully negotiated with Media Professional Insurance Company to offer fair use riders on the E&O insurance policies which has allowed many films to be made under the fair use doctrine. He helped the IDA file, argue, and win an exemption to the DMCA, allowing Documentary Filmmakers access to public domain material for the purpose of their documentary pursuant to fair use. Michael also helped draft the Rome Resolution to harmonize Fair Use across the European Union as well as Orphan Works legislation. Michael most recently testified before House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet on Orphan works. Michael is the author of Clearance & Copyright: Everything You Need to Know for Film and Television, which is now in its third edition and used in over fifty film schools across the nation, as well as many other books. 

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