Michael Donaldson

Michael Donaldson Headshot

Entertainment Attorney & Partner
Donaldson + Callif LLP

Michael C. Donaldson is a Los Angeles based entertainment attorney who has been fighting for independent filmmakers for thirty-five years.  Michael is the co-author of The American Bar Association’s Legal Guide to Independent Filmmaking and a contributor to Carole Lee Dean’s The Art of Film Funding: Alternative Financing Concepts. Dubbed the ‘Legal Obi Wan Kenobi’ and ‘fair use guru of the documentary film set’ by the American Bar Association, Michael has gained a national reputation as an expert on clearance and rights related issues. He also frequently advocates on a pro bono basis for indie filmmakers, most recently in support of Ken Burns, Sarah Burns and David McMahon in their successful fight to resist the subpoena of outtakes from their film THE CENTRAL PARK FIVE.

Michael Donaldson groupshotMichael graduated from UC Berkeley School of Law, Boalt Hall in 1967. His book Clearance and Copyright, now in its third edition, is used in over 50 film schools and has become the standard industry reference book. Michael also wrote Negotiating for Dummies (now in its second edition and translated into eleven languages), Fearless Negotiating (published in hardback in 2007 by McGraw Hill) and The E-Z Legal Guide to Trademarks & Copyrights. Michael has worked on such projects as THIS FILM IS NOT YET RATED (where all 134 clips were utilized under fair use), WANDERLUST (saving its filmmaker over $400,000) and EXPELLED (which featured the song “Imagine,” prompting an unsuccessful law suit by Yoko Ono). Michael has also worked with the Geffen Playhouse and the REDCAT, as well as representing Center Theatre Group (Ahmanson Theatre, Mark Taper Forum and Kirk Douglas Theatre) for over twenty years.

Aside from lecturing frequently at law and film schools across the United States and in Europe, Michael is an avid skier, worldwide hiker and kayaker, and award-winning photographer. But what remains most important to Michael (in addition to his partner Tim Kittleson and his three daughters and three grandchildren) is his pro bono and philanthropic work.

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