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Notes from the Reel World: The President's Column, Fall 2010

By Rachel Kamerman

Dear IDA Community,

To paraphrase that noted philosopher, Janet Jackson, you may be asking byourselves,  "IDA, what have you done for me lately?"

And's kind of a lot.

Just recently, the US Copyright Office granted documentary filmmakers an exemption to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, allowing us to digitally "rip" excerpts of material for legitimate fair use purposes. (Previously, this was a crime--which meant jumping through hoops to avoid breaking digital locks, not using the footage at all or being a godless hooligan). At last, "fair use" in the digital world is truly fair. IDA was instrumental in this effort, which benefited from the work of Michael Donaldson, the University of Southern California Law Clinic and other film organizations.

A few weeks earlier, IDA organized over 200 filmmakers to sign an open letter supporting Joe Berlinger in his battle against Chevron to turn over all 600 hours of dailies shot for his film Crude. IDA, again with Donaldson, submitted an amicus brief during Berlinger's appeal, featuring detailed testimony from the likes of Robbie Kenner, Tia Lessin, Ricki Stern, Alex Gibney and yours truly. We believe this helped to significantly reduce the amount of footage Chevron could subpoena, and introduced careful parameters into their use of that footage.

We also petitioned the FCC in favor of net neutrality--key to the future of independent documentary filmmakers--and filed another amicus brief in the case US v. Stevens, which resulted in a Supreme Court victory that upheld your rights as journalists with regard to material depicting animal welfare.

So, in short, your IDA has been out there kicking some A. And why am I telling you this? Because I love to pat myself on the back?

No, it's because in order to do this work--to fight for your right to be arty--and smarty--we need your support. If you haven't renewed your membership since Mel Gibson was a credible leading man, then please--go online to and renew. Those friends you see at our events--the ones who aren't really members? Ostracize them. No; cajole them into joining, for real. And if you've donated enough cash to buy your local NPR station a stadium-sized hot tub, but you've never given five bucks to us, it's time to pony up. We're a nonprofit arts organization, too; we take donations. Hey, if you're planning on dying, you can even put us in your will.

We're currently building a "war chest" to tackle future advocacy efforts, and we'd like to throw a little more muscle around. So kick in, and let us buy some protein powder, will ya? Think of IDA as the sheriff of the documentary world--and it's time to support your local sheriff.

I thank you, Michael Lumpkin thanks you, and Janet Jackson thanks you. 

Eddie Schmidt