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AU Law IP Clinic Achieves Copyright Exemption for Film Profs’ Classroom Use


AU Law IP Clinic Achieves Copyright Exemption for Film Profs’ Classroom Use; Renewed Exemption for Video Game Archivists

Contact: Kathy Thompson, AU WCL Public Relations, 202-274-4279; Cell Phone: 703-855-5556

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Nov. 29, 2006) – Students in the Glushko-Samuelson Intellectual Property Law Clinic at American University Washington College of Law won two legal victories last week, when they received positive rulings on two filings in a Copyright Office rulemaking proceeding on requested exemptions to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). The decision was posted on the U.S. Copyright Office Web site last Wednesday. It announced six new classes of works that would be exempt from having to seek copyright authorization.

In the first, a filing for a new copyright exemption on behalf of film and video studies professors at the University of Pennsylvania’s Cinema Studies Program and Annenberg School of Communication, the Librarian of Congress, on the recommendation of the Register of Copyrights created a new exemption for “Audiovisual works included in the educational library of a college or university’s film or media studies department…for the purpose of making compilations of portions of those works for educational use in the classroom.”

WCL law students, Daniel Rubin and Raquel Ronisky, requested the exemption on behalf of University of Pennsylvania film and video studies Professors Peter Decherney, Michael Delli Carpini, also Annenberg’s dean, and Katherine Sender. The students argued that “film and media studies is a valuable and expanding field, and integral to these educational programs is the study of actual films.” The ability to make a montage of film clips is critical to training the next generation of film critics, producers, directors and others in the industry. However, technology has evolved to the point that fewer films are available in analog, and professors have had to rely on DVDs for the clips they want to use in a classroom environment. Unfortunately, the access controls and content scrambling embedded in those discs make it impossible to extract small portions of the productions for use in the classroom. “The use of film clips in film studies education is a legitimate fair use of copyrighted materials under the Copyright Act,” the students said. They successfully made the case that fair use must also apply in a digital world.

In a separate filing, WCL clinic students Doug Agopsowicz and Jieun Kim assisted Brewster Kahle of the Internet Archive in making a successful request for a continuation and expansion of one two existing exemptions prohibiting circumventing access controls imposed by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. This petition was also granted and will allow users to geto around a DVD’s access controls to permit the preservation or archived reproduction of computer programs and video games that are (1) in obsolete formats and or (2) require equipment that is no longer manufactured. The students also obtained an opinion that obsolete operating systems were not subject to the legal restriction on access controls.

These two victories are the most recent in a history of successful filings and briefs drafted by students in the Glushko-Samuelson Intellectual Property Law Clinic, one of WCL’s newest clinics. The clinic was launched in 2001, and its students have been cited by the U.S. Supreme Court. They have filed many friend-of-the court briefs, including in Eldred v. Ashcroft, heard by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2002; Festo Corp. v. Shoketsu Kinzoku Kogyo Kabushiki Co.; and the case of small business owner Victor Moseley, owner of “Victoria’s Little Secret” against lingerie giant Victoria’s Secret.

The Glushko-Samuelson Intellectual Property Law Clinic prepares students to be effective and thoughtful practitioners through direct experience in this rapidly-evolving area. Students, under the supervision of faculty, work with actual clients and learn a range of essential lawyering skills and acquire a critical understanding of the values and value conflicts that shape the development of intellectual property law and policy. Through its activities, the clinic strives to promote the public interest in copyright, patent, trademark and related fields.

To arrange to interview clinic faculty or students involved in these filings, contact Kathy Thompson, director of Public Relations, 202-274-4279; cell phone: 703-855-5556; or e-mail:


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