Clinic Members Lead Seminar on Fair Use & the DMCA

On Monday April 22, 2013, the USC Intellectual Property and Technology Law Clinic gave a presentation to over 100 documentary filmmakers as part of the International Documentary Association‘s Doc U educational series on the exemption to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”) that the clinic and Donaldson + Callif helped win for documentary filmmakers in 2012.



The DMCA was enacted in 1998 and, among other things, made breaking technological locks that protect copyright material–like the encryption on DVDs–a crime.  This became a problem for documentary filmmakers because while fair use gives them the right to use material, more and more of it is locked up by the DMCA.  So the IPTLC helped obtain an exemption for documentary filmmakers in 2010 and again in 2012 that allows them to take from DVD’s and online sources for the purposes of commentary and criticism.  Unfortunately, the exemption is so long and complicated that even lawyers find it dauntingly complex.

Clinical interns Katharine Trendacosta and Garrett Lee, along with Professor Jack Lerner, created a seven-step analysis that allows documentary filmmakers to use the exemption and obtain videos for use in their films for purposes of criticism and commentary without having to hire a lawyer.  To start off the seminar, Dean Cheley of Donaldson + Callif gave a primer on fair use for documentary filmmakers.

We had a lot of fun at this event, which took place at the Cinefamily Theater.  Photos here and here.  In case you missed it, the presentation was filmed for IDA’s Doc U series and will be posted online for viewing in the near future.  Stay tuned!




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