Copyright Office Extends Anti-Circumvention DMCA Exemptions To All Filmmakers, Not Just Documentarians
from the victory dept
Earlier this year, we wrote a bunch of posts on the Copyright Office’s request for comment on changes needed to the DMCA’s anti-circumvention exemption list. There were lots of interesting submissions, but one that caught my attention was a whole bunch of film association groups, most of them for documentarians, advocating that the anti-circumvention they enjoyed to be able to use clips from other films and content be expanded to include filmmakers generally. This would address the copyright industries’ cynical attempt to route around Fair Use usage by filmmakers by simply locking up their content behind all kinds of DRM that, unless you’re a documentarian, you can’t circumvent. The MPAA, as you would expect, said that allowing for this would kick off “widespread hacking” of all the DVDs on the planet, while all it was really concerned about was the licensing agreements it was able to secure by filmmakers who didn’t want to violate the DMCA to get the Fair Use clips they wanted.
Well, the Copyright Office made its decision and the exemption will now be offered to filmmakers en masse.
Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) exemptions aren’t just for documentary filmmakers any more. The U.S. Copyright Office and Library of Congress last week broadened a DMCA exception to now allow more filmmakers to circumvent anti-copying technology and rip short video clips for purposes of commentary and criticism.
“This is huge for the independent film industry,” said Michael Donaldson, an attorney who argued for expanding the exemption before the Copyright Office, in a written statement. “The use of fair use material by narrative filmmakers has exponentially increased to the point where expanding the exemption to fiction films was absolutely necessary.”
What this means is that more filmmakers will now be able to simply rip clips from protected DVDs to use in their own creative works, as long as the purpose of the clip is used for parody or to demonstrate biographical or historically significant information. This opens up all kinds of uses, of course, but all of them will still be subject to being truly Fair Use cases. That, of course, is a defense, so you can expect lawsuits to be filed before we settle into some kind of a norm here.
Still, this is a good decision by the Copyright Office. The idea that the MPAA and others could lock up content that could otherwise be fairly used behind DRM obviously doesn’t comport with the purpose of the law.