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Notes from the Reel World: The President's Column, Spring 2015

By Marjan Safinia

Dear IDA Community,

Transition of any kind is an opportunity for reflection. In the space between two defined states, we are afforded a chance to take stock—to honor what we leave behind, hold onto the pieces that we want to carry forward, and imagine ourselves through fresh eyes.

With Michael Lumpkin’s move from executive director of IDA to his exciting new role as director of AFI Docs, the first part of 2015 has been a time of transition for us at IDA. Reconsidering the skills and talents a new executive director would need to take IDA to the next level in our evolution has been an exciting and richly rewarding process. For the staff and board, it’s been a chance to reimagine the way things are done, redefine priorities, and explore the new pathways that lie before us. With the new season, we begin a new chapter, and feel re-inspired with untapped opportunities for our growth and re-rooted in our organizational mission to build and serve the needs of a thriving documentary culture. I speak for the entire board when I thank Michael for all he brought to IDA and wish him great luck in his new position.

As of this print deadline, I’m not yet able to announce IDA’s new executive director, but we think you will find the news as exciting as we do. We’ve focused on seeking someone whose experiences will help IDA improve our service in specific areas: to broaden our national presence, to better serve our international community, to grow our filmmaker funding, to work towards career sustainability for professional documentary filmmakers, and to always passionately advocate for documentary artists, activists and journalists from a strong pro-filmmaker stance.

On that note, it makes me tremendously proud to announce that IDA has filed comment with the United States Copyright Office to renew and expand the exemption for documentary filmmakers in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) that we first fought for successfully in 2009.

The documentary community benefits greatly from the established legal doctrine of fair use. Without the exemption, the DMCA undermines filmmakers’ ability to access fair use material without breaking technical protection measures and digital encryption that locks this material away. Under the DMCA, the simple act of ripping a DVD in order to access fair use content became a crime in and of itself.

With the new three-year exemption petition, IDA—together with Film Independent, Kartemquin Films, NAMAC and Indie Caucus—argued to expand the exemption to include accessing material from Blu-ray and digitally transmitted video. Evolving technological standards dictate the need to expand permissions.

We are represented well in this important advocacy work. The herculean legal undertaking of gathering testimony and preparing the petition was led by IDA board member Jack Lerner and his incredible team of legal students from the Intellectual Property, Arts and Technology Clinic at the University of California, Irvine, together with co-counsel Michael Donaldson of Donaldson + Callif. The UCI students put in countless pro bono hours of work on behalf of filmmakers, and our entire documentary community owes them a debt of gratitude. Fingers crossed for a positive result.

Until next time,

Marjan Safinia
IDA Board President