Publication Date

October 1, 1996

Stop Paying Unnecessary Fees to Use Film Images

To the Editor:

I am, writing in regard to some points Mark C. Carnes made in his piece, "Beyond Words: Reviewing Motion Pictures," in the May/June1996 issue of Perspectives. Carnes revealed that fees of around $40,000 were paid for “permission” to publish the film stills in the recent book Past Perfect (if I read his description on page 5 correctly). It is important for historians to realize that in many cases, if not most, permission fees are probably unnecessary.

It is also important for historians to realize the distinction between frame enlargements and publicity photos. Frame enlargements are images made directly from the strip of film itself (or, as in Carnes's description, scanned from a video image). Publicity photos are made on the set with a still camera and are usually issued for use in advertising and by journalists. Increasingly, film historians are opting for frame enlargements rather than publicity photos, since the latter do not show the image as it appears in the film itself.

From 1990 to 1992 I chaired a committee investigating the topic of copyright issues in relation to the reproduction of film images. It "'as sponsored by the Society for Cinema Studies, a national professional organization of film scholars. I also wrote the "Report of the Ad Hoc Committee of the Society for Cinema Studies 'Fair Usage Publication of Film Stills,'" published in the winter 1993 issue of Cinema Journal (vol. 32, no. 2). After consulting copyright lawyers and officials of the Library of Congress, the committee concluded that, although no specific law exists covering film illustrations and no case has set a legal precedent, in all likelihood fair use protects the scholarly and educational use of frame enlargements. In effect, frames are comparable to brief quotations from literary works.

Film scholars have published hundreds of frame enlargements from a wide variety of films without seeking permission to do so and have encountered no legal challenge. (A few have also paid large fees for the use of frame-enlargements, most probably unnecessarily.) Since the appearance of the report, several university presses have dropped their requirement for authors to obtain producers' permissions when using frame enlargements. In addition, not seeking permission automatically solves the problem of censorship that Carnes mentions. There is no legal basis for the studios censoring illustrations in this way.

Publicity photos are another matter, since photographs can be copyrighted as single works. Still, most film photos are issued with the specific purpose of publicizing films. In the early decades of film history, many publicity photographs were not copyrighted. Many photos were issued carrying specific copyright waivers for publication. Thus scholars may find it worth tl1eir while paying for copyright searches (which generally cost less than permission fees). I would urge my colleagues in the field of history to avoid paying unnecessary permission fees for film images, as it sets a precedent that endangers the ability of other scholars to use illustrations vital to their work.

Kristin Thompson
University of Wisconsin at Madison

Globalization Article Reinforces Hierarchies

To the Editor:

I read with interest the lead article in the April issue of Perspectives, John Gillis’s report, “The Future of European History.” Future scholarship in this area, according to Gillis, will include globalization; the search for unfamiliar “others”; a rethinking of analytical perspectives in unfamiliar terms, such as diasporas, borderlands and peripheries; an awareness that boundaries are shifting; and a “challenging … [of] the geographies that currently prevail.” Concluding, he calls for the abandonment of “the practices of enclosure that define history as a series of separate ‘fields,’ jealously guarded by overspecialized proprietors.” In arriving at this conclusion, Gillis explains that he consulted “more than two dozen seasoned scholars,” who are conveniently acknowledged by name in footnote one. Of the 27 people mentioned in that footnote, I have been able to identify the institutional affiliation of 25 of them. (Perhaps the others are graduate students or work abroad.) Six are at Princeton, six at the University of California at Berkeley, two at the New School for Social Research, two at Columbia (including one graduate student), and one each at Cambridge, Stanford, Rutgers, the University of Pennsylvania, the Institute for Advanced Studies, Boston College, Harvard, the University of Chicago, and the University of Wisconsin at Green Bay.

In other words, of the 24 at American universities, 15 are at institutions located between Philadelphia and Boston and 7 at universities in northern California, leaving just 2 for the entire rest of the country. It strikes me that in advocating globalism John Gillis has been practicing provincialism; in calling for an awareness of shifting boundaries and a challenging of prevailing geographies he has been retracing the existing boundaries and geography of American intellectual life. His consultations, in search of diasporas and peripheries, reinforce—no doubt inadvertently—the existing academic hierarchies of center and periphery. If he wants to seek out the out the “others," he might start with the denizens of those strange and savage territories west of the Alleghenies and east of the Sierra Nevadas, or south of the Mason-Dixon line, even if in doing so the jealously guarded enclosures of certain academic proprietors suffered from some trespassing.

Jonathan Sperber
University of Missouri at Columbia

Applicants Unprepared for Interviews at Small Colleges

To the Editor:

I write to confirm the article by Steven A. Leibo in the December 1995 issue of Perspectives, as well as the article about the production of history Ph.D.’ s in the April 1996 issue of the newsletter. We recently advertised a beginning position in modern European history at my small liberal arts college. The position is a modest one but typical of a number that become available each year and of a type where many have had satisfactory teaching careers. We received 149 applications. A number of the applicants had Ph.D.’s, but not in the field advertised. (A note of desperation could be detected in the letters of these applicants.) A number of applicants were overqualified for the position. A large number clearly had no understanding of the teaching emphasis in the liberal arts college. The application letters were often long, recondite discourses on the applicants’ dissertations, and a few were loaded with social science jargon. Only a minority of the applicants stated philosophies of teaching or concern with students, which are the major concerns of our search. Needless to say, this latter group will receive consideration for the position. I write this letter out of concern for graduate students and as a means of alerting graduate faculties to reality.

J. Glenn Grayson
Greensboro College

Active Learning Criticized

To the Editor:

The May/June issue of Perspectives contained yet another article promoting the reigning pedagogical fashion. Edward Berenson’s “Active Learning in the University Classroom, or What I Learned from Elementary School Teachers” invokes the standard shibboleths of the “collaborative” pedagogical paradigm—”students learn best when they can construct their own knowledge,” learning must be an “active, hands-on process,” and so forth. And of course, the article asserts that lecturing, listening, and note taking are fundamentally “passive” activities. (I suspect that the disciples of collaborative learning define a student sitting at a desk reading a book for more than a few minutes as a passive endeavor.)

Fortunately, given the pedagogical component of academic freedom, Berenson is free to use whatever teaching method or methods he judges to be most appropriate for himself, his course goals and subject matter, and the types of students in his classes. However, collaborative teaching approaches are problematic in many ways. And as a general proposition, I would submit that the methods used in elementary schools are not the methods that should be used in colleges and universities. I also question their application at 'the middle and secondary levels; why offer the methods widely used in those grades as the model for effective teaching and learning when those same methods help produce high school graduates whose reading, writing and thinking skills are frequently abysmal?

David O. Stowell
Keene State College

Editor's Note: A number of recent Perspectives articles have explored active-learning techniques. See for instance, Kathi Kern, "To Feel a Part of History: Rethinking the U.S. History Survey," in the May/June 1996 issue and the Thinking Historically forum in the October 1995 issue.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Attribution must provide author name, article title, Perspectives on History, date of publication, and a link to this page. This license applies only to the article, not to text or images used here by permission.