CRUDE Documentary Ruling: Sources, Most Footage Protected

Thursday the Court of Appeals issued a largely positive order in the case of CRUDE documentary filmmaker Joe Berlinger who had been ordered by a federal judge to turn over 600 hours of unused documentary footage to energy giant Chevron as part of the lawsuit discussed in the film. For more about the lawsuit, which pitted indigenous Ecuadorians against Chevron, click here. The Ecuadorians won their suit, and Chevron is appealing the ruling which resulted in the largest ever settlement for environmental damage — one which has obvious bearing on the BP Gulf oil spill.

Berlinger will have to turn over a portion of the 600 hundred hours of footage, but conversations the director had with defendants, lawyers and their families are protected.

Attorney Michael C. Donaldson who filed an Amicus Brief on behalf of the Writers Guild of America, East, evaluated the remarks as:

a partial victory for both sides. Chevron gets some but not all of what it wants. Berlinger has to turn over some, but not all 600 hours of footage. The many hours of footage that Joe gathered alone with the plaintiffs and their families, friends, and neighbors has all been protected. What is important to the documentary community is that – for the first time in this kind of case – the court is restricting Chevron on how it uses the footage. Chevron can only use the footage for litigation, arbitration, or submission to official bodies. Chevron can’t use the footage in publicity or promotional materials. The documentary community is awaiting the final order of the court because it should give detailed discussion of the court’s thinking and provide guidelines to help documentary filmmakers in the future.

It is important to note that the many hours of footage that Joe gathered as he talked to the victims and their families does not have to be turned over pursuant to this order. In terms of the trust and confidence that is at the heart of investigative filmmaking, this is a very important element of the order.

9 Responses to "CRUDE Documentary Ruling: Sources, Most Footage Protected"
Elana Levin | Friday July 16, 2010 12:36 pm 1

Thanks for writing this up. This is a very important issue for the Guild’s members. Also fwiw the documentary itself is incredible.

AZ Matt | Friday July 16, 2010 03:58 pm 2

Thanks Lisa! Chevron needs it butt kicked hard for what it has done.

newtonusr | Saturday July 17, 2010 06:05 pm 3

The Ecuadorians won their suit, and Chevron is appealing…

Lawsuit postpones enforcement of First Amendment.
Like we didn’t see this coming.

1970cs | Saturday July 17, 2010 06:34 pm 4

greenwarrior | Saturday July 17, 2010 06:43 pm 5
In response to 1970cs @ 4

wherever you live, i’m sure you can hear me screaming, “NOOOOOOOO!”

SouthernDragon | Saturday July 17, 2010 07:05 pm 6
In response to greenwarrior @ 5

Methinks China is taking a long, hard look at what BP’s doing in the Gulf. The Chinese wouldn’t want their seafood industry threatened by a similar disaster. We’ll see just how capitalistic the People’s Republic of China is willing to become.

SouthernDragon | Saturday July 17, 2010 07:08 pm 7

Is there any word on what the filmmakers have to say about the footage they do have to turn over? I’ll bet Chevron is scramblin’. Good. Assholes.

greenwarrior | Saturday July 17, 2010 07:40 pm 8
In response to SouthernDragon @ 7


and evil murderers.

transparait | Saturday July 17, 2010 08:04 pm 9


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