November 10, 2011

WE NEED YOUR HELP: DMCA Exemption for Filmmakers

Documentary film is critical to our culture and our democracy. When the DVD became the default media format of our time, the ability of filmmakers to make fair use of copyrighted video clips became compromised. Because “ripping” a DVD requires bypassing the DVD’s “technological protection measure”, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act made the act of “ripping” a DVD illegal even in situations where the doctrine of fair use permits filmmakers to use the material on the DVDs without permission.

Fair use is a critical part of documentary filmmaking. For over a century, filmmakers have had the right to make fair use of copyrighted work in their films. Using the footage is still totally legal under fair use; however, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act makes sure that ripping a Blu-Ray is a crime. This law undermines filmmakers’ ability to utilize fair use with the footage in their films.

Some light shone through in July 2010 when documentary filmmakers won a three-year exemption that allows a filmmaker to take materials from DVDs and use those film clips for criticism and commentary. This year, the IDA and Kartemquin films together will be requesting that this exemption be renewed to allow all filmmakers to obtain the film clips they need under protection of the law. To do so, WE NEED YOUR HELP.

Check out our questions regarding your experience with fair use and the DMCA’s current restrictions. If you have an account of your experience that you would like to tell, please submit your story using our online form or send them to

We need as many responses as possible! We’d like to hear from you as soon as possible in order to meet the deadline. Of course, we’d still love to hear from you after the November 4 deadline to help in fighting this fight to preserve our fair use rights.

Thank you so much for your help!