UCLA Law Students to Star in New Documentary Film Clinic

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Leading media-law expert Dale Cohen directs UCLA Law's Documentary Film Legal Clinic.

Documentary filmmakers who need legal assistance to bring their journalistic and artistic visions to the screen can soon turn to an inventive UCLA School of Law clinic in which students gain substantive experience in media and entertainment law.

Taking advantage of UCLA Law’s reputation as a top school for entertainment law and its location in the heart of the moviemaking industry, the Documentary Film Legal Clinic will provide pro bono services to clients needing help with a wide variety of issues, including contracts, intellectual property, licensing and the First Amendment.

Opening in UCLA Law’s Spring 2018 semester, the clinic will include 14 second- and third-year students, working under the guidance of two experienced attorneys.

Dale Cohen, special counsel to the PBS documentary series Frontline and co-author of one of the field’s preeminent texts, Media and the Law, directs the clinic, which is part of UCLA Law’s Ziffren Center for Media, Entertainment, Technology and Sports Law.

UCLA Law alumni work as attorneys and executives at the highest levels throughout all areas of the movie business, and the school has held the No. 1 position on the Hollywood Reporter’s ranking of the nation’s top entertainment law programs since 2014.

“Given its geographic location in Los Angeles and status in the industry, UCLA Law is the perfect place to house a clinic specializing in the legal aspects of documentary production,” Cohen says. “Through the clinic, independent filmmakers will get top-notch legal guidance, and students will work side-by-side with these journalists and artists, learning about the filmmaking process and helping to tell stories that are increasingly important to our democracy.”

Cohen joined UCLA Law as Director of the Documentary Film Legal Clinic in 2017 after two years as an adjunct professor. His extensive experience includes representing journalism organizations such as the Tribune Company, Cox Media Group and Radio Free Europe, and teaching media law courses at Northwestern University, the University of Maryland and the University of North Carolina.

Through live client experiences, simulations and seminars, he expects students to learn about newsgathering steps such as making public records requests and seeking location approvals; address intellectual property matters such as fair use, copyright clearances and right of publicity; draft agreements to secure content or talent participation; and give legal advice on defamation, privacy, speech and risk management. 

In the past year, UCLA Law has opened new clinics in immigration policy, human rights and services for veterans. In addition to documentary film, the school expects to launch clinics in immigration advocacy and music law in the coming year.

“Documentary films identify important issues of social justice and cultural change, and they are a proving ground for talented artists and storytellers,” says Dean Jennifer L. Mnookin. “This program will propel emerging filmmakers and train the next generation of great media and entertainment lawyers.”