Documentary Community Wins in Net Neutrality Ruling

By IDA Editorial Staff

The FCC came out with a net neutrality ruling December 20 that is a victory for the position enunciated by the International Documentary Association (IDA) and filed on a pro bono basis by entertainment attorney Michael C. Donaldson. 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 vote was 3-2.

Net neutrality regulations essentially state that the Internet service providers cannot pick and choose which items get preference as they travel the Internet; broadband providers will be prohibited from blocking access to lawful content. 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.  

 "An Internet that is not neutral could weaken, marginalize and eventually shut out the very work our community produces, as it is so often politically, socially and fiscally threatening to the corporate interests that control mainstream media and now seek to regulate the digital realm," said Eddie Schmidt, president of the IDA. "This hurts the community immeasurably, but it also hurts a global audience that relies on our work for hard news as well as valuable insights into the human condition." Michael C. Donaldson said, "This is far from  a complete victory, but a huge step forward for the documentary community."

Michael C. Donaldson organized the efforts on a pro bono basis, along with Jack I. Lerner and the USC Intellectual Property and Technology Law Clinic. The International Documentary Association led the fight, garnering support from organizations such as Film Independent, University Film & Video Association, Independent Filmmaker Project, Independent Feature Project Chicago, IFP Minnesota and National Alliance for Media Arts and Culture.