U.S. Library Of Congress Grants DMCA Exemption for Vidders!!

The OTW’s Legal and Vidding Committees have just been informed that the Library Of Congress is about to release a (long-awaited!) ruling granting a DMCA (Digital Millenium Copyright Act) exemption to makers of noncommercial remix, which includes vidding, anime music videos, political remix videos and the like. Previously film studies professors had the only exemption: now documentary filmmakers, makers of noncommercial video, and media studies teachers are also permitted to circumvent DMCA technologies if they need to in order to teach or to make artistic statements. (The DMCA exemption applies to you if you are in the U.S. or if someone tries to apply U.S. law to your work.)

This ruling does not mean that all vids and other remixed works are entirely out of the fog of legal uncertainty; rather, it means that people making noncommercial remix video do not have to worry about violating the DCMA’s anticircumvention provisions (which otherwise might prohibit ripping a protected DVD), which are separate from ordinary U.S. copyright law and which don’t otherwise allow for fair use. There is a requirement that circumvention must be necessary, because the Copyright Office believes that screen capture software might in some circumstances produce results of sufficient quality. As Tisha Turk testified, however, this is unlikely to be true for vidders.

The OTW worked with the EFF on the proposed exemption, submitted its own reply comment in support (special thanks to Casey Fiesler for her hard work), and went down to DC to support this comment with live testimony from Francesca Coppa, Tisha Turk, and Rebecca Tushnet. Today’s ruling is the result of the hard work of a coalition of documentary filmmakers, media studies professors, and fair use advocates.

The ruling is expected to be posted on the Library of Congress site later today! We’ll post more news and links as they become available!

One final note: because of the restrictiveness of the law, we have to do this all over again in two years. We need your stories to help, because the Copyright Office needs to see evidence of the need for an exemption: tell us why you need high-quality source to make your vids, why they are transformative, and/or why you don’t use screen capture. You can comment, or email the OTW’s Vidding Committee any time.

You can read OTW’s press release on the decision here.

Announcement, Legal Advocacy, Vidding
  1. Kristen Murphy commented:

    \o/ \o/ \o/

    Congratulations and thank you to everyone who worked on this!

    • fcoppa commented:

      Join me in a chair-dance! I think everyone can take credit for and celebrate this! \o/

      • Kristen Murphy commented:


  2. Elizabeth Perry commented:

    Yaaaaaaay! \o/\o/\o/\o/ THIS IS AWESOME NEWS.

    • fcoppa commented:


  3. Please leave a name commented:

    Seriously, you are all just awesome. Congratulations and THANK YOU!

    • Laura Shapiro commented:

      Dunno what happened there. (:

      • fcoppa commented:

        It is so incredibly awesome. There is a lot of chair-dancing going on here at the OTW. 😀

  4. Tisha Turk commented:

    NOT ENOUGH \o/ IN THE WORLD. I *still* get inspired when I think of RT layin’ it down about the digital poll tax.

    • fcoppa commented:

      That was a moment of pure, unadulterated awesome, I agree!

  5. Green commented:

    That is fantastic news! I’m so excited I might pop. 😀

    • fcoppa commented:

      Don’t pop! You can’t make vids if you pop!

  6. Jason Mittell commented:

    Excellent news for scholars, makers, and consumers alike! Thanks to the OTW folks for your hard work…

  7. sevil commented:

    Hey, Congratulations on that and thank you for all your hard work! Though I’m not a vidder and I had a hell of a time translating the reply comment ;), I’m totally happy for you. This is such a big step, isn’t it? Maybe, just maybe, when this is established in US law, it maybe trickle down to other countries someday. A lot of wishful thinking, that, but you have just proven that it’s possible. A great wave of cheers from me and confetti for everyone *big cheerful grin*

    • fcoppa commented:

      Apologies to you, poor but awesome translators! (I know that vidding and legal jargon are the bane of your existence!) But see, it was worth it! 😀

  8. Artie commented:

    Um… this does NOT cover MUSIC… hate to rain on the parade its a step in the right direction for us – but we will still have the same issues on YT we did before because of WMG and UMG.

    BUT… its getting closer to enforcing the Fair Use law in our favour.

    • fcoppa commented:

      That’s right, this ruling isn’t about music, but its still really important: it means that they can’t use the DMCA to stop a fair use defense before it’s out of the gate. Vis a vis YouTube and private companies, they will always be permitted to have their own rules: they can decide that they don’t want vids that have a lot of green in them. But that doesn’t make green vids illegal, and it doesn’t make vids illegal either.

  9. Taryn commented:

    I’m happy for anything in our favor, but don’t think this will change much. So, it’s legal to rip from dvds for non-commercial use, but I’m assuming it’s still illegal to post those ripped clips online? If someone could clarify that would be awesome.

    • fcoppa commented:

      It is not illegal to post those clips online to make a noncommercial remix: that’s what the ruling says. But if you’re asking about services like YouTube, etc, they are private companies who can make their own rules: they can decide not to host anything they don’t want to host. We are hoping that this ruling will cause them to relax a bit about their own private company rules, but it’s important to note that this is not the same thing as illegal.

      • Taryn commented:

        Thanks so much for replying. I guess what I’m confused about does relate to sites like youtube. They can take things down for any reason they want, however; the reason they are giving is that we are infringing on someone else’s copyright, making it illegal. Which is a statement we are arguing with, saying that it’s fair use, which I’m assuming is why you say it’s not illegal. I guess the way I had previously understood it was that even if it was legal to obtain the clips and mix them together, it would still be illegal to post it where other people could watch it. But…I guess not if it’s fair use…which we still have to argue. But even if it is fair use these sites could take it down because companies ask them to (or they just decide to do so on their own). Sorry to take up so much space, these are obviously complex issues and I’m just trying to wrap my head around them. I guess the benefit from this ruling is I can scratch one reason off my lists to be afraid of sharing my vids.

        • fcoppa commented:

          It doesn’t have anything to do with whether people watch it or if it’s on the internet; that’s not really one of the legal issues. You’re right that private companies like YouTube can take things down for whatever reasons they want, and you’re right that they mostly claim to be complying with copyright, though sometimes its that they literally don’t want to bother to make the distinction between a fair use and just a pirated copy of something (likely to be less fair, though there are some arguments for straight copying as having some fair uses also.) So most of the time, if you actually make a PERSON see a vid, they agree that it’s a fair use: the YouTube takedowns are mostly done by computer, now, and computers can’t tell the difference (yet: the EFF has made some good suggestions for reprogramming computers so that they can tell the difference between a transformative work and a straight up clip.)

          But yeah, it is hella confusing and I probably just made it more so!

          • Taryn commented:

            No, that actually helped make it so much clearer in my mind! Thanks so much for taking the time to explain that to me (and everything else you do for the cause). That makes a lot of sense, and makes me feel really encouraged that I’m not doing something inherently wrong by posting my work. Thanks again, I really appreciate it!

  10. camikila commented:


    • fcoppa commented:

      As someone once said: OTW: OH, THE WIN! 😀

  11. keerawa commented:

    I am so excited by this ruling! \o/ Thank you to Casey and other folks at the OTW who helped make this possible!

    • fcoppa commented:

      Casey and Rebecca and Tisha and all the vidders whose work we cited and all the documentarians and educators and fair use advocates and…. \o/

  12. RDphantom commented:

    Oh wow, that is amazingly great news!!!

    • fcoppa commented:

      It really is! We’re delighted!

  13. spes_unica commented:

    Yay – congrats!!!

  14. Nele commented:

    (What, I didn’t comment on this?) Fantastic work, congratulations!

  15. Joy commented:

    Thank you everyone who made this happen. I have to say that the #1 thing I love about making fan-videos, is just showing off my creativity. Being able to edit is so awesome and one of my all time favorite hobbies. I don’t do it for profit. I only do it for entertainment and to create awesome editing. I love making fan-made videos!