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Notes from the Reel World: The President's Column, August 2006

By diane estelle Vicari

Dear IDA Community:

How time flies! Summer is already upon us; we at IDA have concluded our screening process and have shifted into high gear with the production of our upcoming 10th annual DocuWeekTM Theatrical Documentary Showcase. From August 18 to 24, a colorful palate of international stories will be presented at the ArcLight® in Hollywood. Our schedule will soon be available, so mark your calendars! 

On June 7, IDA went to Washington. Executive Director Sandra Ruch, entertainment attorney Michael C. Donaldson and I joined the team of Gigi Sohn and Alex Curtis, president and government affairs manager, respectively, of the nonprofit advocacy group Public Knowledge; Jennifer Urban, associate professor of law at the University of Southern California; Pam Colby, president of the National Association of Media Arts and Culture; and Winnie Wong, vice president of DeWitt Stern Group, Inc. The delegation met with 12 legislators and their representatives to educate them about "orphan works"- copyright-protected materials for which the owners can't be located-and the great difficulties documentary filmmakers face in trying to clear orphan works for their films.

In early 2005, Republicans and Democrats of the Judiciary Subcommittees, which oversee copyright in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, asked the US Copyright Office to conduct a study on the issue of orphan works. During the preparation stage, Donaldson and IDA Board Member Barbara Leigh Gregson, a film research and clearance expert, testified at hearings conducted by the Copyright Office.

Bill HR5439, The Orphan Works Act of 2006, which draws on the Copyright Office recommendations, was recently introduced, and was passed by the Judiciary Subcommittees. The committees and Congress are currently considering it for legislation. The delegation presented its case and requested some clarification on the language of the bill as it is currently written. IDA is firmly committed to continuing a dialogue with Congress on this issue.

In the last issue, I wrote to you about IDA joining the consortium to voice our concerns over the Smithsonian Institution's joint venture with Showtime Networks. This venture will be establishing operations in Washington, DC and New York City to produce and distribute television programming under the Smithsonian brand. While in Washington, Ruch and I took the opportunity to meet with David Royle, Smithsonian On Demand's executive vice president for programming and production. We had an open conversation about the concerns of our constituents, and we extended an invitation for Royle to come to Los Angeles and New York to directly address the issues IDA members have about this new venture.

The issues above are of great relevance to all of us, so please join us as we continue to advocate on your behalf.


With gratitude,

diane estelle Vicari
IDA President