• Extending the DMCA Exemption for Noncommercial Remixers

    By .fcoppa on Pátek, 23 December 2011 - 7:19 odpoledne
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    Legal and vidding committee members Rebecca Tushnet, Rachael Vaughn and Francesca Coppa have collaborated with the EFF on a proposal (download the .pdf) to the Library of Congress to renew and extend the DMCA exemption for Noncommercial Remixers. The current exemption gives noncommercial remix artists - like fan video artists and political remixers - the right to rip DVDs, breaking their encryption, for the purpose of making a fair use video, and the request covers that as well as using sources like Amazon Unbox where material isn't available on DVD.

    The papers were filed December 1, 2011 and contain statements from and interviews with a number of fans - so thank you everyone who told us their stories!

    The OTW will be sending representatives to Washington in the early part of next year to testify in favor of these exemptions, so stay tuned for more news.

    Lastly, those of you interested in fan vidding might be interested in this documentary by Abigail Christensen.

  • DMCA Exemption Proposal - Video Makers, We Need YOU!

    By .fcoppa on Neděle, 30 October 2011 - 6:54 odpoledne
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    The OTW's Legal and Vidding Committees have started working on the renewal of our hard-won exemption to the US DMCA (Digital Millenium Copyright Act)'s provisions on digital rights management for noncommercial remixers--and we need your help! If you vid or make other forms of fan video by ripping DVDs or Blueray discs; if you rip footage from a streaming service like Hulu, Itunes Streaming, or Amazon Unbox, please get in touch! You don't have to use your real name: Depending on your choice, we can describe you using your pseudonym or as "a vidder" or "a fan filmmaker." We are trying to compile stories of how fans work and what they need to make their fanworks.

    We are seeking your own words about:
    (1) Why vidding is a transformative and creative act;
    (2) Why you need to circumvent (rip) DVDs or other sources such as Blu-Ray, Amazon Unbox, Hulu, or YouTube--we are particularly interested in cases where you were only able to find a copy of the source at one of the online services because the source wasn't available on DVD;
    (3) Whether you've tried screen capture software and how it worked for you;
    (4) Whether you could make use of the "alternative" proposed by the MPAA, which is that you set up a separate camera to record your screen as it plays the source;
    (5) Why high-quality source is important to you, whether your reasons are technical or aesthetic or something else;
    (6) Anything else you think we ought to know as we work with the EFF to put together our request!

    So please contact Francesca Coppa directly (fcoppa at transformativeworks dot org) or use the Vidding committee webform.

    The OTW works hard to engage with and influence the US laws regarding fair use not only to help fans in the US or who use US-based services, but because we are aware that these laws have a ripple effect all over the world. For example, in South Korea, there was a huge crackdown on online copyrighted content as a result of a fair trade agreement with the U.S., and US policymakers are pushing these other countries to enact laws that are even harsher and don't provide for exemptions the way that the US's own domestic law does. Strong DMCA exemptions help send the message that such a system doesn't work for the US and wouldn't be a good idea elsewhere either. (We are interested in hearing from non-US vidders with answers to the questions above too!)

  • October Drive - Celebrating our Legal Advocacy

    By .allison morris on Čtvrtek, 21 October 2010 - 7:14 odpoledne
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    2010 has been a banner year for the OTW's Legal team, most notably for their role in securing a Digital Millenium Copyright Act exemption for noncommercial video remixers including vidders, anime music video makers, and makers of documentary films. Before this ruling, only film professors were given an exemption from the DMCA's prohibition against DVD ripping.

    This expanded exemption is emblematic of the work of the OTW legal team and the OTW's commitment to legal advocacy for fans and fanworks by supporting fair use and communicating the message that fanworks are creative, transformative, and have cultural value. Your financial backing of the OTW supports these legal efforts and more. It makes the statement that fanworks and fan creativity matter.

    Help us continue to provide a legal voice for fandom by supporting the OTW!

  • DMCA Follow-up Answers

    By .allison morris on Středa, 1 September 2010 - 3:48 odpoledne
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    A number of bright and beautiful questions cropped up after we posted about the DMCA Exemption for Vidders. We've gathered up the handiest discussion, for clarification on what this ruling will mean for the community.

    Our position: Fanvids are critical commentary

    For the purpose of vidding, critical is a synonym for analytical, in the sense of constructing a "reading" of the source text. A shipper vid--one that celebrates the love between two characters, or creates a deeper relationship between them, or emphasizes the relationship between them, or sometimes even constructs it out of almost nothing--is a reading of the text that changes how you see it, or re-prioritizes the values of the original. Slash is almost always a critical reading, and implicitly a political one. Lots of vids are about emphasizing characters who aren't central, giving them their own screen time, making them the main character for three minutes. All of these are making critical commentary in the sense of making an analytical reading!

    The Copyright Office did not rule that any particular vid was a fair use; however, it cited a number of vids as examples of the kinds of remix that are likely to constitute fair use.

    The Exemption doesn't cover music

    While the ruling isn't about music, it is still really important: it means that copyright holders 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 won't host 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.

    Are ripped clips legal?

    Under the exemption, it does not violate the DMCA to rip clips from DVDs that you lawfully acquire for the purpose of making a noncommercial remix as long as you reasonably believe that you need to rip in order to get clips of the necessary quality. Once you have the clips, what you do with them, such as posting your vid online, is governed by fair use. 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 rules, but it's important to note that this is not the same thing as illegal.

    What does this mean for copyright, fair use, and vids on YouTube?

    Private companies like YouTube can take things down for whatever reasons they want, and they mostly claim to be complying with copyright, though sometimes it's 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: YouTube takedowns are mostly done by computer, now, and computers can't tell the difference (or can't 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).

  • Copyright Office Cites Fan Vids In Recommending New Exemptions

    By .fcoppa on Středa, 28 July 2010 - 4:34dop.
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    It's worth noting, if you didn't parse everything released with the new DMCA exemptions announced yesterday, that the fan vids in the OTW's Test Suite of Fair Use Vids (Women's Work by Sisabet and Luminosity, This Is How It Works by Lim, Handlebars by Seah and Margie, and Closer by Killa and T. Jonesy) as well as additional vids that we presented at the DMCA hearings last year - Lierdumoa's How Much Is That Geisha In The Window, Lim's Us, and Luminosity's Vogue - are discussed in the Register of Copyright's Recommendation to The Librarian of Congress. (You can download the entire .pdf, which is searchable.)

    For instance, Lierdumoa's vid helped to convince the Register that vidders need access to high quality source:

    "Noncommercial, transformative users have also sufficiently demonstrated that certain uses require high quality in order for the purpose of the use to be sufficiently expressed and communicated. For instance, where focus on background material in a motion picture is essential to the transformative purpose, as exemplified in the situation of bringing the background to the foreground, the use of decrypted DVDs is necessary to make the point. One particular example of “bringing the background to the foreground” was demonstrated in the vid, How Much Is That Geisha In The Window, by Lierdumoa. This vid criticizes and comments upon Joss Whedon’s science fiction television series Firefly. The series incorporates Asian culture and art, but the vid demonstrates that almost no Asian characters are featured and that they appear only in the background."

    The Register also discussed the timing, characterization, editing, and message of the other vids, concluding that, "frequently when one is engaging in commentary about audiovisual works, it is necessary to use high quality reproductions in order to make one’s point."

    The OTW is grateful to these vidders for allowing their work to appear in our Test Suite and for sending their work with us to Washington. Concrete examples made using high quality source are crucial to our arguments, and it is also vital for us to know about your stories, experiences, expectations, and practices. As we noted in our announcement of the exemption, we'll have to do this again in two years, and the Copyright Office will once again require evidence of the need for an exemption. You can help strengthen our case by leaving a comment or emailing the OTW's Vidding Committee at any time.

    In related news, we are continuing to keep track of press about the DMCA exemptions, so keep an eye on our links post. We are also proud to launch a Press Room to serve as a focal point for media contact and to collect media mentions of our work, as well as our own OTW press releases.

  • More news and links about the DMCA victory!

    By .fcoppa on Pondělí, 26 July 2010 - 4:36 odpoledne
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    The Copyright Office now has information about the new ruling up on their website. Particularly interesting is the Statement from the Librarian. The full text of the decision is available as a .PDF.

    Coverage of the decision is coming out fast; we'll keep updating. Please feel free to comment with links we haven't seen.

    * EFF Wins New Legal Protections for Video Artists, Cell Phone Jailbreakers, and Unlockers at the EFF's site;

    * EFF wins enormous victory against DRM: legal to jailbreak iPhones, rip DVDs for mashup videos at BoingBoing;

    * Apple loses big in DRM ruling: jailbreaks are "fair use" at Ars Technica

    * Jailbreaking iPhone apps is now legal from CNN; quotes our own Rebecca Tushnet and discusses vidding particularly:

    The agency also granted an exemption allowing users to break DVD copyright controls to extract snippets of copyrighted movies for the purpose of incorporating them into new works, so long as the new creation is noncommercial. Known as "vidding," such remixing is a popular hobby among fan artists, and their creations are widely available for viewing on YouTube.

    The ruling doesn't remove all of the legal murk around vidding. Creators still need to ensure that their clips meet "fair use" guidelines, and the Copyright Office specified that its exemption applies only to motion-picture snippets extracted "for the purpose of criticism or comment."
    But advocates say the decision is a big step forward. Hollywood movie studios had long held that ripping DVDs for any purpose whatsoever is a violation of the DMCA.

    "This ruling is useful because it removes a tool that was able to be deployed over and above copyright law that already has fair-use safety valves," said Rebecca Tushnet, a law professor at Georgetown University who testified in favor of the exception at a Library of Congress rulemaking hearing last year. "Now we're back to where we should have been all along, and we can continue the conversation about what's reasonable fair use."

    * Fair Use Victories on the DMCA from the Center for Social Media

    * New DMCA Exemptions Legalize Phone Jailbreaking & DVD Ripping for Fair Use at Geeks are Sexy; this article shouts out the OTW and vidding in particular.

    * OTW's own press release

    * Review Of US Digital Millennium Copyright Act Brings New Exemptions from IP Watch

    * New DMCA exemption from

    * Letting Us Rip: Our New Right to Fair Use of DVDs in the Chronicle of Higher Education

    * Copyright Office Rules in Favor of Fair Use and Consumer Freedom - vidders get a shout out in the Huffington Post

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

    By .fcoppa on Pondělí, 26 July 2010 - 2:35 odpoledne
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    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.

  • YouTube Fends Off Viacom

    By .fcoppa on Čtvrtek, 24 June 2010 - 7:03 odpoledne
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    YouTube/Google has successfully defended itself against Viacom's lawsuit, meaning that "the court has decided that YouTube is protected by the safe harbor of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) against claims of copyright infringement." As the EFF explains: "YouTube and all other 'user-generated content' sites rely on these safe harbors to shield themselves from copyright infringement liability"; in other words, you can't hold a company that hosts user-generated content responsible for everything its users do, or they couldn't function. This is already the law, but as we noted previously, it takes a behemoth the size of Google to defend it.

  • Go Go Godzilla!

    By .fcoppa on Úterý, 23 March 2010 - 8:40 odpoledne
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    I have often described the coming battle over online video as Godzilla vs. Mothra--that is to say, a battle which will be fought out among corporate behemoths much more powerful than any vidder. Reel one of this monster movie is starting: Viacom vs. Google. This week, both sides released paperwork detailing their claims and accusations; at stake is YouTube, and even more specifically, the DMCA's "safe harbor" provision--which is just the little detail which has made most of the internet possible. (Short, IANAL version: "safe harbor" means that you can't hold internet services liable for everything their users do with them. If streaming sites, web ISPs, social networks, etc. had to guarantee that nobody would ever use them to do, publish, or share anything illegal, they wouldn't be able to function.)

    Probably the funniest part of this week's news comes from YouTube's blog post on the subject, in which they argue that Viacom is basically full of sockpuppets:

    For years, Viacom continuously and secretly uploaded its content to YouTube, even while publicly complaining about its presence there. It hired no fewer than 18 different marketing agencies to upload its content to the site. It deliberately "roughed up" the videos to make them look stolen or leaked. It opened YouTube accounts using phony email addresses. It even sent employees to Kinko's to upload clips from computers that couldn't be traced to Viacom...As a result, on countless occasions Viacom demanded the removal of clips that it had uploaded to YouTube, only to return later to sheepishly ask for their reinstatement. In fact, some of the very clips that Viacom is suing us over were actually uploaded by Viacom itself.

    Is it too much to hope that Viacom flounces and deletes all its journals in a huff?

  • Link Roundup

    By .fcoppa on Pátek, 16 October 2009 - 9:18 odpoledne
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    A few legal stories that might be of interest to followers of the OTW:

    From UGC is More Than Hamsters on a Piano is an essay by Michael Weinberg at, talking about the "assumption that the UGC is essentially commercially worthless – it is all first grade ballet recitals, dogs jumping up and down, or kids falling off of skateboards. The real action (and money) is around the "real" content. Since the money will only come from the professional content, the concerns of today’s professional content owners (usually having to do with filtering or kicking people off of networks) tend to dominate the discussion." But Weinberg points out that we are not all sitting around waiting for professionals to come and entertain us, and that today's established studios may not have "the best interests of their future competitors at heart."

    From Meet the 42 lucky people who got to see the secret copyright treaty: Fans should be aware that a number of parties are trying to negotiate an international, anti-copyright treaty "that contains provisions that criminalize non-commercial file-sharing; require net-wide wiretapping for copyright infringement and border-searches of hard-drives and other devices; and disconnection from the Internet for people accused of violating copyright." A lot of people, including, BoingBoing, the EFF, and others--are protesting the secretive nature of these negotiations.

    From Rachel Maddow: Hey, Rachel Maddow follows BoingBoing: could we love her more? Rachel interviews BoingBoing's Xeni Jardin about the Ralph Lauren photoshop disaster--but gets that the real story was the attempted DMCA intimidation of BoingBoing after the fact, when reprinting the photoshopped image to mock it was a classic case of fair use. Because Boingboing's ISP was in Canada, they didn't have to comply with the DMCA, and Rachel immediately gets what she calls "the deeper part of this story", that "ISPs just immediately cave whenever they're confronted by anything like this, and it sort of hurts the first amendment."

    Lastly, our own Rebecca Tushnet caught the story that Mattel has licensed "Barbie Girl". For those not familiar with the case, 12 years ago, Barbie sued the Danish pop band Aqua, claiming trademark and copyright infringement. The claim was dismissed and the song was ruled as protected speech. Now, Mattel has licensed and rewritten the song to promote its new line of Barbie products. If you can't beat 'em...?


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