DMCA exemptions granted for docmakers

The U.S. Copyright Office today granted documentary makers a renewed exemption to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), allowing them to rip content from DVDs and streaming video for the purpose of "fair use" incorporation in their work.

This ruling extends the victory for filmmakers secured in 2010 by a coalition including Kartemquin, and protects the short-term future of documentary film. However, the decision not to allow an exemption for Blu-Ray means that the future is uncertain and in some ways worryingly limited.

In response, Kartemquin's artistic director Gordon Quinn stated: "We are pleased with this decision to extend the DMCA exemption for DVD and streaming video, which is necessary for documentary filmmakers to practice their fair use rights. But we are disappointed that the copyright office decision doesn't also cover Blu-Ray. In this rapidly changing technical environment we will have to assess over the next three years how this may impact our ability to effectively make documentaries."

The exemption ruling comes after testimony from Gordon Quinn and Kartemquin technical director Jim Morrissette to the Copyright Office in June 2012, and submissions of material in support of all documentary filmmakers in December 2011 by Kartemquin, the International Documentary Association (IDA), Independent Filmmaker Project (IFP), and the National Alliance for Media Arts and Culture (NAMAC), in conjunction with the USC Intellectual Property and Technology Law Clinic and Donaldson & Callif, LLP.

Jack Lerner, Director of the USC Intellectual Property and Technology Law Clinic, commented: "This is an important day for documentary filmmaking. In today's digital environment, technological locks are ubiquitous and confounding. Without this exemption, filmmakers simply could not continue to do what they've done for decades: use the language of film to examine and illuminate our culture, history and civic life."

You can read the full exemption ruling here, and more reactions from Ars Technica, and Public Knowledge.