Michael C. Donaldson

MICHAEL C. DONALDSON is an entertainment attorney who has been fighting for independent filmmakers for over forty years. Dubbed the “legal Obi-Wan Kenobi” and “fair use guru of the documentary film set” in the American Bar Association’s ABA Journal, he has gained a national reputation as an expert on clearance and rights-related issues. He has testified before Congress on copyright reform relating to orphan works, and he successfully negotiated with insurance companies to offer fair use riders on E&O insurance policies, which has allowed many films to be made under the fair use doctrine. He served on the Legal Advisory Board for the Documentary Filmmakers’ Statement of Best Practices in Fair Use. He is past President of the International Documentary Association (IDA) and current General Counsel to Film Independent, home of the Spirit Awards. 

Michael wrote the first edition of Clearance & Copyright: Everything You Need to Know for Film and Television in 1996; this fifth edition has been updated by the entire law firm of Donaldson Callif Perez. Other books by him are Negotiating for Dummies and Fearless Negotiating, and he coauthored The American Bar Association’s Legal Guide to Independent Filmmaking: Contracts, Copyright, and Everything Else You Need to Know with his partner Lisa Callif. 

Michael has competed in the Senior Olympics in gymnastics, winning three gold medals for the parallel bars and a silver medal for rings. He works out weekly on the flying trapeze and participates in swimming events internationally. Michael is married to Tim Kittleson and has three daughters—Michelle, Wendy, and Amy—as well as a granddaughter, Soul, and two grandsons, Caden and Canyon.


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