Patricia Aufderheide

Professor Patricia Aufderheide joins QUT Creative Industries in 2017 as part of a Fulbright Senior Fellowship examining the lively, often contentious public debate around copyright reform.

Aufderheide’s research extends a decade-long exploration of creative practice in relation to copyright knowledge. At American University, as University Professor in the School of Communication, she has worked with legal scholar Peter Jaszi of American University’s law school to develop a better understanding of copyright law. Of particular interest to the researchers are the American exception of fair use among filmmakers, non-fiction authors, poets, media literacy teachers and other creators.

Their book Reclaiming Fair Use charts a clear path through the confusion by urging a robust embrace of a principle long-embedded in copyright law, but too often poorly understood—fair use.

Understanding fair use, which permits limited use of unlicensed copyright material to create a new work, has permitted US creator communities to lower costs and improve productivity without jeopardising profits.

What do Australian creators do?

Aufderheide is the principal investigator for a comparative study that includes a survey and interviews with Australian creators, including authors, musicians and filmmakers. Australian law features more limited exceptions to copyright monopoly, which allow new work to be generated without impairing the flow of rewards to copyright holders. When filmmakers need to refer to public events, when authors reference popular culture such as song lyrics, when playwrights use real life as their subject matter, they often need to quote copyright material.

Australian law features more limited exceptions to copyright monopoly, which allow new work to be generated without impairing the flow of rewards to copyright holders.

Aufderheide’s study, conducted with QUT scholars Stuart Cunningham, Nicolas Suzor and Kylie Pappalardo, will illuminate the choices creators make when they need to incorporate copyright material into their own new work. This research will be helpful in informing policy discussion.

Research study poster: ‘Could Copyright Hobble Creative Process?’

“I’m so delighted to be researching with distinguished colleagues whose work I have admired for so long,” Aufderheide said. “We hope that the QUT community can spread the word about the survey among the many creators who include QUT faculty, alumni and sometimes students.”

Documentary film history and ethics

Aufderheide also is known as a scholar and film critic on documentary film; her book Documentary Film: A Very Short Introduction is a standard text in US film classes. Her research includes work on documentary ethics, on investigative documentary practices, and on the evolution of the form into interactive, virtual/augmented reality, and hybrid expression.

She will present the QUT Distinguished Visitor Lecture on 19 May, 2017, titled Creative Innovation and Copyright: Does Australian Policy Encourage Self-Censorship in a Digital Era?

Aufderheide will also be making presentations at the Australian Digital Alliance’s Forum, in the Docuverse lecture series at RMIT, at the Australian International Documentary Conference, at three universities in New Zealand, and at Vivid Sydney. She has returned from a panel presentation at MuseumNext Melbourne, with QUT professors Stuart Cunningham and Kylie Pappalardo.

“I welcome the opportunity to meet and engage with new colleagues,” Aufderheide said.