Comments submitted in DMCA exemption case

Without a DMCA exemption for filmmakers, many important documentaries currently in production could not be made. This argument is at the core of official comments submitted to the US Copyright office yesterday, which you can now read in full online.


The official comments are the first step in the case asking for a renewed exemption to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act that would allow filmmakers and multimedia content creators to rip content from DVDs, Blu-Ray and digital video transmission (streaming video) for the purpose of "fair use" incorporation in their work. This would extend the victory for filmmakers secured in 2010 and protect the future of documentary film.


The comments argue that "the DMCA’s prohibition on anticircumvention is preventing or seriously hindering thousands of filmmakers from making fair use when they create new films." It also contains a statement by Eddie Schmidt, President of the Board of Directors of IDA, on the “Death of DVD”, which argues that "the current DMCA exemption is hugely necessary for filmmakers, but it is already outdated," because developments in the film industry are rapidly seeing the abandonment of DVD as a format, meaning an updated exemption for Blu-Ray and online video is essential.


Kartemquin, the International Documentary Association (IDA), Independent Filmmaker Project (IFP), and the National Alliance for Media Arts and Culture (NAMAC) are the coalition submitting the comments, in conjunction with the USC Intellectual Property and Technology Law Clinic and Donaldson & Callif, LLP.


Included in the comments are claims from a host of filmmakers currently working on forthcoming projects that will require taking fair use content from DVD, Blu-Ray and online video, including the Kartemquin documentaries The Trials of Muhammad Ali (directed by Bill Siegel), American Arab (directed by Usama Alshaibi), and Mormons Make Movies (Xan Aranda).


Other completed and in-progress films referenced in the comments as requiring a DMCA exemption include: South Dakota, The Real Rocky, A Fierce Green Fire, SpOILed, Twine, Films of Fury, The Ponzi State, Vito, Inside Job, Bellflower, Gasland, The Big Uneasy and our own The Interrupters.


Kartemquin's Technical Director Jim Morrissette's also comments on the necessity of allowing filmmakers to "directly access CSS [Content Scrambling System] copy protected DVDs, Blu-Ray discs, and DVT sources because the legal alternatives to circumvention of TPMs [Technology Protection Measures] are not technically viable, and are so burdensome that they price out a large percentage of documentary filmmakers."


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You can also read The L.A. Times story on this issue: "Seeking to copy -- legally-- from Blu-ray discs and online media" by Jon Healey, which states that the new exemption requests for Blu-Ray and streaming video are "a logical extension of the exemptions granted for making fair use of content on DVDs."

Update to this story: Gordon and Jim testified to the Copyright Office on June 4th, 2012. You can read a blog of their testimony via Rebecca Tushnet.