At IDA, we advocate for, help protect and advance the broad fundamental rights of documentary filmmakers. We have a long history of making the case for documentary filmmaking as a vital art form, and we continue to seek ways to ensure that those who make documentaries have the access, funding and protection they deserve to practice their craft.
Most recently, IDA has been in the forefront of support on major issues confronting our industry, including:
Read a note from IDA Board President Marjan Safinia about IDA's extensive advocacy efforts.
IDA Advocacy Efforts
On December 29, 2013, three Al Jazeera English journalists were imprisoned in Cairo. On the 100th day of the detainment of Mohamed Fahmy, Peter Greste, and Bahar Mohammed in the Egyptian capitol, the IDA was invited to include a letter of support in the press packet for Al Jazeera's press conference marking the event. The letter calls on the Egyptian Authorities to immediately release the imprisoned journalists. Read IDA Executive Director Michael Lumpkin's letter »
Thanks to the efforts of the IDA, New York City's case against the Central Park Five filmmakers Ken Burns, David McMahon and Sarah Burns has been blocked by a federal judge. In October, 2012, the filmmakers received a subpoena from the City of New York for the outtakes and extra footage from the documentary. Although the lawyers for the city insisted on seeing all of the footage before the film was released to the public, U.S. Magistrate Judge Ronald L. Ellis said the city's concerns did not override the "precious rights of freedom of speech and the press." Read more »
On May 9, 2012, PBS announced that landmark independent non-fiction series POV and Independent Lens will both move to Monday nights beginning with the premiere of Independent Lens in the Fall. This is a huge step toward the continued promotion and support of independent non-fiction programming on PBS. This announcement signals the culmination of a months-long process which gave birth to the PBS Needs Indies campaign launched by Kartemquin Films with support from the IDA in mid-March and the PBS Needs Indies steering committee organized in April, 2012. Read more »
On April 19, 2012, Lee Storey, an attorney in the area of water rights and a documentary filmmaker, learned that her documentary film Smile ‘Til It Hurts: The Up With People Story has been considered a for-profit endeavor in the eyes of the US Tax Court. She is therefore forgiven the outstanding amount owed to the IRS from her 2006-2008 Federal tax returns. This ruling sets a precedent for documentary filmmakers to come, hopefully causing future auditors to uphold a standard for upcoming productions and burgeoning filmmakers who find themselves in similar situations. Read more »
With your help and support, we submitted these comments for consideration of appending the DMCA’s current restrictions for accessing footage on DVD and BluRay on December 1, 2011. We're making the full report available for you to browse and share with fellow filmmakers, complete with moving statements from important influencers in the film world such as IDA Board President Eddie Schmidt. Read more »
On July 25, 2010, documentary filmmakers gained access to previously "locked" DVD content for fair use in their productions under an exemption to the DMCA granted to them by the US Copyright Office. The exemption allows documentarians to obtain short portions of material from DVDs, even when that material is behind digital locks, for any non-infringing use in a documentary. Read more »
Net neutrality is important to documentary filmmakers in that it ensures their films travel the Internet at the same speed as films by the major studios who can afford to pay for faster transport. The new rules create two differing classes of service--one set of rules for fixed broadband networks and the other for wireless networks. The first rule requires providers be transparent in their management and operation of their networks; the second prohibits traffic blocking on the Internet; the last applies only to fixed broadband providers and prohibits discrimination against traffic on their network. Read more »
In May of 2010, the IDA and a large group of filmmakers including Alex Gibney, Michael Moore, Barbara Kopple, and Morgan Spurlock issued an open letter in support of Joe Berlinger, the director of Crude. In this letter, the substantial number of filmmakers objected to a judge’s ruling that Chevron could subpoena Mr. Berlinger’s footage from that film. Read the New York Times piece about the open letter from filmmakers across the country, and peruse the Amicus brief filed on behalf of Berlinger. Read more »
Along with Film Independent, the Independent Feature Project and the Independent Film and Television Alliance, the IDA filed an Amicus Brief in April 2010 to help the Supreme Court understand a certain First Amendment threat to documentary filmmakers posed by Congress's law pertaining to the depiction of cruelty to animals, even if that act depicted is totally legal. The brief was filed in direct response to Robert J. Stevens, who had included clips of a legal Japanese dog fight in a film he produced and was sentenced to 37 months in federal prison. Read more »