Ever since 1954, when film critic Francois Truffaut “asserted that the worst of Jean Renoir’s movies would always be more interesting than the best of Jean Delannoy’s,” the director has come to be seen as the auteur of the films she directs. This idea, while fine for film critics, has unnecessarily crept into the law. Directors currently enjoy a unique status under UK law due in part to the idea that they are the sole creative auteur of a film. This article questions this special status and suggests some changes within the framework of existing EU directives in order to bring the rights granted to those who work on a film more in line with those who work on other creative works.

 

1.0 Introduction

 

Ever since 1954, when film critic François Truffaut asserted that the worst of Jean Renoir’s movies would always be more interesting than the best of Jean Delannoy’s, [1] the director has come to be seen as the author, or, in French, the auteur, of the films she directs. This view of the director-as-author is known as Auteur Theory. This theory posits that, within the confines of the industrial process of filmmaking, a director can leave a specific stamp–her own distinctive style–on a film. [2]

 

This article examines the special position of film directors in the United Kingdom under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (CDPA). To a certain degree, UK law accepts Auteur Theory–the idea of the director-as-author. This places the director in a unique position. In the first section, this article will set out the exact contours of the director’s rights described in the CDPA by looking at authorship, copyright term length, and moral rights. This section establishes that directors receive authorship when other contributors do not; receive a greater-than-average copyright term; and receive moral rights to the exclusion of any other contributor.

 

After establishing the director’s position under UK law, this article then analyzes the rationale behind these three unique rights. Two ideas are presented as the basis for the different laws for directors in the CDPA–the difference between creation and creativity, and the practical needs of film production. Using these two ideas, I then critique the special position of the director, and offer two changes to the CDPA. This article proposes that the copyright term should be brought in line with other terms by granting authorship to other creative contributors, and that these other contributors should also receive moral rights….

 

Jordan S. Hatcher *