Law 769 - Documentary Film Legal Clinic

Dale Cohen

Dale Cohen

Special Counsel, "Frontline"
Director of Documentary Film Legal Clinic
B.A. Syracuse University, 1980
J.D. Northwestern University School of Law, 1983
Course Description:

The Documentary Film Legal Clinic gives students the opportunity to provide legal counsel and representation to independent documentary filmmakers. The Doc Film Clinic focuses on transactional and counseling skills on a wide variety of subjects.  Since this is a live-client experiential course, the nature of the work may vary from semester to semester. In recent semesters, student-clinicians have:

  •     provided clearance review of films, including advice on copyright and other intellectual property issues, defamation and privacy law, First Amendment issues and newsgathering problems;
  •     drafted and negotiated of a variety of agreements, including contracts to secure content, to license music and archival materials, and to engage talent and other personnel;
  •     advised clients regarding appearance and location releases, life rights agreements and the right of publicity;
  •     assisted filmmakers in establishing business structures and financing agreements;
  •     written opinion letters to support filmmakers’ applications for insurance; and
  •     helped filmmakers gather news and information – e.g., by drafting public records requests and reviewing court records and other public documents.

Students enrolled in the Clinic will work in small teams to acquire substantive expertise in media and entertainment law, as well as practical experience in interviewing and counseling clients, identifying and managing risk, negotiating and drafting agreements and professional responsibility. The Clinic will include mandatory weekly seminars covering both substantive and practical legal skills through lectures, discussion, exercises and group review of projects. Students will also attend weekly team meetings of at least one hour with the supervising faculty member(s) to review and discuss client goals, legal issues, strategies and progress. These meetings will provide students with the opportunity to receive direct feedback from the instructors regarding their project work.  Client needs will likely necessitate additional conferences with team members, filmmakers and faculty.

To enhance their practical understanding, students will also engage in “project rounds”, seminar sessions in which class members will discuss their client projects and receive feedback from classmates and faculty.  Guest speakers from the entertainment community, including filmmaker clients, will occasionally present in seminar sessions.  The Clinic program also includes a multi-hour introductory session, typically scheduled for the first Saturday of the semester, that will include practical simulations, substantive training and team-building opportunities.

This four-unit course will be graded based upon project work, team collaboration, and class participation. Several written reflection assignments designed to measure progress and understanding of key principles will also be assigned.

Students who are interested may also apply for a second semester in the Doc Film Clinic for two (2) additional units. Please contact Profs. Cohen or Mayeda to discuss if you are interested.

Course Learning Outcomes:

1) be able to understand and apply the various laws -- including intellectual property, privacy, defamation and constitutional law -- that impact documentary filmmakers and their films;

2) be competent in basic communication skills and techniques used in working with doc filmmakers and other clients

3) become familiar with the best techniques for working with other lawyers in teams to serve clients' interests; 4) learning client-centric lawyering skills and perspective

Course Information:
​Faculty Term Course Section ​Schedule ​Units Requisite Satisfies SAW
Daniel Mayeda / Dale Cohen 19F 769 LEC 1 T 3:20 PM - 5:20 PM 4.0 No No
  Experiential course enrollment through separate process; deadline June 14, noon. See ENROLL.LAW.UCLA.EDU Early drop deadline: 5:00 p.m. on 8/30/2019.
Daniel Mayeda / Dale Cohen 20S 769 LEC 1 T 3:20 PM - 5:20 PM 4.0 No No
  Experiential course enrollment through separate process; deadline: Noon on 10/18/2019. See ENROLL.LAW.UCLA.EDU. Early drop deadline: 5:00pm on 1/24/2020.
Textbook Information:
Textbook for Fall 2019 LEC 1
Donaldson and Callif. Clearance & Copyright  4th ed.  
ISBN: 9781935247128. Silman-James Press. REQUIRED $45.00
Textbook for Spring 2020 LEC 1
Donaldson and Callif. Clearance & Copyright  4th ed.  
ISBN: 9781935247128. Silman-James Press. REQUIRED $45.00