Several filmmakers and film making groups have asked the U.S. Copyright Office to relax the rules relating to the ripping and use of footage found on commercial DVDs and Blu-rays.
Under current copyright laws, such use is only permitted when it comes to film content classified as documentaries, but several groups, including The International Documentary Association, Kartemquin Films, Independent Filmmaker Project, University of Film and Video Association, says that the current exemptions are too limiting and it is hurting the creative potential of filmmakers.
Filmmakers, such as Steve Boettcher and Mike Trinklein, say they want to be able to rip footage from DVDs or Blu-ray or even Netflix, by bypassing or removing the copy protection present in these commercial video sources. The footage could then be used in their film project, which might not be classified as a typical documentary.
"Given the significant amount of drama in the film [we are working on], we decided early on that our storytelling toolbox could not include fair use of materials from DVD or Blu-ray, because the exemption did not cover accessing that material for use in a drama," wrote Boettcher and Trinklein in their submission to the U.S. Copyright Office.
"Already, we were hindered in our ability to tell these stories. So, there is already a chilling effect in that a drama-heavy documentary might be seen as a drama outright, and thus under a different set of rules."
Other filmmakers expressed similar apprehension, fearing legal reprisals if they went ahead and used ripped footage and if their film project was found by a court to not be a documentary.
The MPAA, Hollywood's trade body, has argued in the past that changes are not necessary, and that filmmakers can simply record footage by playing it on a TV and recording the TV with a camera. Filmmakers would argue that this kind of "workaround" is unnecessary and leads to poorer quality work, and an unnecessary extra step considering how flimsy the copy protection for DVDs and Blu-rays are.