EFF Asks Federal Court to Save Fair Use on "Intermediate Copies"

Colorado - Yesterday the Electronic Frontier Foundation asked the Colorado Federal District Court to rule that copying an entire movie to a computer to make a new, lawful work is fair use. The case, Huntsman v. Soderbergh, involves the companies Family Flicks and Play It Clean Video, which make and distribute copies of movies with sexual and violent content removed. To make these "clean" copies of popular films, the companies must first make an "intermediate copy" of the entire movie on a computer in order to edit it.

Members of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), along with several prominent film directors, claim that copying movies in order to make them "clean" is copyright infringement. In a friend-of-the-court brief, EFF argues that as long as making clean movies is not itself an infringing activity, the practice of making intermediate copies should be considered non-infringing also.

This is a important point, because intermediate copies are crucial to the process of creating new copyrighted works. A documentary filmmaker, for instance, might need to make temporary intermediate copies of movies in order to get footage for a film. In the software industry, the process of duplicating a copyrighted work to make an original work is known as reverse engineering, and it has been ruled a fair use in several courts.

"People who make movies should have the same rights software engineers have had for years," said EFF Staff Attorney Jason Schultz. "Fair use makes new art possible."


Jason Schultz
Staff Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation