Duke Law Center has a Center for the Public Domain. Here’s some student-produced videos detailing the difficulties of documentarians of obtaining clearance. Stealing Home was my favorite. Here’s a Robert Boynton article on copyright. On the Duke site, look for lectures and papers by James Boyle. Here’s a Stanford Fair Use site. Two interesting points by Orlando Blackwell, the filmmaker of Eyes on the Prize (who apparently can’t secure the rights to the newsreel footage to re-release the film): The two hardest bodies to obtain clearance from are custodian’s of an individual’s estate and the music industry. Because of the difficulties involved, Blackwell thinks he’s going to have to totally redo the soundtrack and use totally new music. (for a 16 hour historical documentary!!!). This is burdensome.
(I would refer you to my previous essay, What Killed Postmodernism?)