From Marj Sarifina, a member of the Board of Directors of the International Documentary Association

In 2008, we successfully won an exemption to the Digital Millenium Copyright Act to allow documentary filmmakers to rip material that they are fully allowed to use under Fair Use from DVDs. The DMCA made it a criminal offense to actually break the DVD encryption to access the material that we were within our rights to use. It was a long process, but we finally succeeded in securing a 3 year exemption for documentary filmmakers, since this is such a core practice that enables us to do our work.

Now, the exemption is up for renewal, and we are applying to broaden the exemption to apply to BluRay and other digital media protected by the DMCA. As the landscape has changed, so have our needs, so you may need to access something that is only available on BluRay, or that you need HD quality for...

Below are the key questions to help determine if a film can help support the case. The attached file adds more context. Elena's comment about Miss Representation above is a great example. The deadline for the case is fast approaching, and we really need help in digging up strong filmmaker testimony to succeed.

Unfortunately, we have not received any stories via that are satisfactory for purposes of the comment, although we have received numerous messages of support. Given that we have only three weeks until the 12/1 submission deadline, we are asking each of you to help us proactively identify filmmakers that (a) have had issues in one of the five categories and (b) are interested in sharing their story.

Key questions are:

1. Have you obtained clips from DVDs for use in a documentary since July 2010?

(Generally, the 2010 exemption makes this use legal, if it was done for purposes of fair use, such as for criticism or commentary.)

2. Are you currently planning or producing a film – whether documentary or fictional – that will require you to obtainclips from DVDs in the near future?

3. Are you planning or producing a film that will require you to obtain clips from Blu-Ray? Have you been harmed by an inability to access clips from Blu-Ray for use in your film?

(In other words, do you need footage that is not available elsewhere or is not feasible to obtain from DVD or other sources, or needs to be HD-quality?)

4. Do you need to use clips from cable, satellite, or Internet streaming sites in your film?

a. For example, do you need material that is NOT available on DVD or Blu-Ray?

b. Or, is your need time-sensitive, and the material will not be available on DVD or Blu-Ray until after your production deadline?

(For example, your project is a weekly film series that comments on popular culture or current events, and you need material consisting of entertainment or news coverage, and this material is only available from broadcast, cable, satellite, or encrypted news websites.)

c. Or, is it unclear when, or if, the material you need will ever be released on DVD or Blu-Ray?
(For example, you want to discuss political events, and need to use footage of a political protest uploaded by an individual to a website that hosts user-generated content.)

Please do pass this along to any filmmakers you know, and help us find stories to support this important case. People with appropriate stories should contact

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Fascinating, thanks Mark.  I'm forwarding this to Jay Fialkov to see if we have projects (possibly even my Paralympics) that fit these categories. 


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