Saturday, July 31, 2010

Documentary Exemption to the DMC Act

This week the Copyright Office announced new rules for the application of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act. Previously, the DMCA made it illegal for anyone to break the encryption software on DVDs, but a proposed exemption would allow documentarians to obtain short portions of material from encrypted DVDs for non-infringing use.

Note that this is not some new grant of permission to actually use material; rather it just means that a documentarian would not be breaking the DMCA if they extract material from a DVD for a lawful use. Determining a legal use isn't always as simple as it sounds, and it's important that you meet all of these criteria:
1. You must have lawfully acquired a lawfully made DVD

2. You may only copy short portions of material for a "non-infringing use," either material in the public domain or material to be used under "fair use."

3. You must be making the copy to use in a documentary

4. You must only copy what you need, you cannot copy the entire DVD [2]
As simple as that sounds, there's a lot of misconceptions about "fair use;" but you can find some material about it on the web [3].

Note that the Copyright Office says they will review the situation again in October 2012.

[1] Rulemaking on Exemptions from Prohibition on Circumvention of Technological Measures that Control Access to Copyrighted Works
[2] Documentary Filmmakers Win Exemption from Digital Millennium Copyright Act
[3] Doc-makers get specific about copyright fair use

Win one, Lose one
Meanwhile, the Lens Blog of The New York Times reports on an ongoing issue for photographers and videographers; the increasingly common practice of authorities seeking to smother photography in public places under the blanket of “security.”

lens.blogs.nytimes: ‘Step Away From the Camera!’

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