OTW Represents Vidders And Other Remix Artists at DMCA Anticircumvention Hearings

OTW board members Rebecca Tushnet (chair of Legal) and Francesca Coppa (chair of Communications and Vidding History) and TWC review editor Tisha Turk went down to Washington DC on May 7, 2009 to testify at the DMCA Hearings on Noncommercial Remix. Rule 1201 of Copyright Law prevents the circumvention of copyright protection systems (e.g. makes it illegal to rip DVDs or to hack your cellphone) but also requires the copyright office to hold hearings every three years to find out of this prohibition is adversely affecting anyone. In 2006, the copyright office granted an exemption to film studies professors, because the case was made that these professors need to rip DVDs to make high quality clip compilations to teach their classes. This year, there were a number of new proposed exemptions, including: educators beyond film studies professors (including K-12 teachers), documentary filmmakers, and vidders and other noncommercial remix artists.

The OTW previously submitted a reply comment in support of the EFF’s proposed exemption for vidders and other remix artists. Tushnet, Coppa, and Turk went down to support this comment with live testimony. As you might have seen across the internet, the other side–MPAA, studios, the people who make encryption technology, etc–suggested that instead of ripping, professors, remixers, documentary filmmakers and others make clips by filming a flat screen with a camcorder.

For more information:

* Audio files/podcasts of the hearings are available at the U.S. Copyright Office’s website and mirrored by the EFF on iDisk. (Our statements are part 2, the Q&A is part 3.)

* Rebecca Tushnet liveblogged the hearings: read the part about noncommercial remix.

* Wendy Selzer of Chillingeffects.org posted about the hearings and also livetweeted them.

* Patricia Aufderheide of the Center for Social Media at American University also blogged the hearings.

* Fred von Lohmann of the EFF has made a YouTube video summarizing the issues and focusing on the OTW and Rebecca Tushnet (“She’s Awesome”). He also blogged his legal analysis.

* Rashmi Rangnath weighs in at publicknowledge.org.

OTW board chair Naomi Novik on NPR

March 25, 2009 – Our own Naomi Novik appears on today’s broadcast of NPR’s All Things Considered, in a a story called Will E-Book Anti-Piracy Technology Hurt Readers? The aired program, as well as a shorter print version, is now available at the NPR website. Naomi is speaking against the DRM [Digital Rights Management] protection on e-books that mean that they can’t easily be transferred from Kindle to Laptop to iPhone. Naomi notes that: “The biggest danger to most authors, to most storytellers, is not that somebody is going to steal your work and pass it along — it is that nobody is ever going to see your work.”

A DMCA Exemption for Vidders?

Vidding News: The OTW wants to announce its support for the EFF’s proposed DMCA [Digital Millennium Copyright Act] exemption for video creators–like vidders–who rip DVDs in order to use clips for fair use remixes. Members of the Board provided the EFF with background information on the petition to the copyright office (right-click and save), which explicitly cites fan vidders as an established creative community that relies on clips from DVDs to make works that are fair use: or what the petition calls “fundamentally transformative visual works.”

As the EFF’s petition notes, noncommercial videos like vids have good fair use arguments, but they may not have their day in court without an exemption to DMCA circumvention claims. To put it in layman’s terms, vids themselves may be legal fair uses, but right now, it’s hard to make the argument because copyright owners are able to claim that the DMCA says ripping DVDs to make the vids isn’t legal–yes, even if you bought them.* (Capturing, for those of you who still capture, is legal; it takes advantage of a loophole called the ‘analog hole’.) The blanket prohibition against ripping short circuits fair use; as the EFF notes, a DMCA exemption will give vidders and noncommercial videographers the chance to make their fair use arguments.

The EFF’s petition briefly discusses fan vidders Luminosity, Lim, and here’s luck: “A vid like Vogue is a direct exercise in cultural criticism–a stylish attack on the romantic conjunction of violence and male sexuality in a major Hollywood film. Some vids (such as Us by the vidder known as Lim), can be far-reaching commentaries on vidding and fan culture itself, while other vids (like Superstar by the vidder known as here’s luck) serve the more modest (but equally fair) purpose of commenting on characters in a favorite TV show.” The entire petition is well worth reading for vidders or fans of vidding culture–not to mention those interested in issues of free speech in a Web 2 .0 world.

*(unless you’re a film professor: film professors currently have the only fair use exemption.)