Using Film to Enhance Intellectual Property Law Education: Getting the Message Across

Janice Ann Denoncourt

Abstract


Film is a powerful education tool because it brings alive subjects, such as law, that can seem inaccessible in the fast-paced modern creative economy. Intellectual property (IP) law has been and still is a very much a text-based discipline and IP law education continues to be dominated by recourse to textual learning resources. However, the content of mainstream films provides a unique platform for debate and understanding the modern intellectual property law environment. This paper explores the place of film in IP law pedagogy. While the film genre has long been an important aspect of primary and secondary education, its use to enhance legal education at university level is still rare, although in the last decade a few UK law schools have attempted to integrate film and audio-visuals into legal learning. As a discipline, IP law is regarded as exciting ‘new’ law at the centre of the creative economy and as such, lends itself very well drawing on popular culture and film to illustrate legal principle. Further, with the advent of accessible audio-visual technology and large screens in university lecture theatres and classrooms, the film medium should be a viable method for IP law education, rather than left on the margin. This article will consider how the introduction of relevant mainstream commercial film media can enhance the pedagogy and delivery of IP law education in order to operate effectively in a complex, rapidly changing world. A methodology supporting the design, development and delivery of teaching by using relevant two-to-three minute clips from Academy Award-winning film The Social Network [1], a drama about the founding of the social networking website Facebook by entrepreneur Mark Zuckerberg and the resulting legal actions (including copyright infringement) will demonstrate how legal educators can inspire law students to engage more fully with their IP law studies. Copyright law issues relating to the screening of film clips in the teaching environment will be examined. The author presents the results of qualitative research concerning the student experience and student feedback on the use of film in legal education which assists to evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of screening film clips as a method of law teaching and learning. Finally, given the wealth of popular culture films available, other recommended films that are especially useful for teaching IP law subject matter are briefly discussed and the author will direct IP law educators to online resources so that they can begin to create a portfolio of their own films to further enhance their IP law teaching.

[1] The film also won Best Picture from the National Society of Film Critics, the New York Film Critics Circle, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, and the National Board of Review, making it only the third film in history to sweep the ‘big four’ critics.


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