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USC Intellectual Property and Technology Law Clinic Wins Copyright Law Exemption on Behalf of Filmmaker

The University of Southern California Law News Service has reported that a team of USC Law students from the USC Intellectual Property and Technology Clinic have helped secure an exemption that will allow documentary filmmakers to use material contained on DVDs and other sources that were previously off limits.

The exemption to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) was announced by the United States Copyright Office. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 makes it a crime to break the digital locks on DVDs and other media. The restriction prevented filmmakers from making fair use of material, or using public domain material.

Together with Beverly Hills entertainment attorney Michael C. Donaldson, the students represented Kartemquin Films of Chicago, IL, the International Documentary Association, and a national coalition of documentary filmmakers and filmmaker organizations.

Under the supervision of Prof. Jack Lerner, director of the Clinic,and in collaboration with Donaldson, two USC Law students in the IP Clinic drafted comments and reply comments to the United States Copyright Office and took the lead in coordinating the coalition of filmmakers and organizations. The students also helped filmmakers from Kartemquin Films prepare their testimony before attending hearings before the Copyright Office in Washington, D.C.

Many filmmakers, particularly those who incorporated current or historical events into their work, have been restricted from using a wealth of material.

Today’s announcement is a victory for documentary filmmakers because they now may use previously restricted materials to tell their stories.

USC Law students Jimmy Chen ’12 and Daniel Fullerton ’12 are now working to inform the filmmaking community about the exemption.

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