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Teasers from Best Practices in Fair Use

As I was re-reading the Center for Social Media's Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Media Literacy (released with great pomp yesterday, including an excellent short address by Joyce Valenza), these lines jumped out at me:

[Fair use] is a general right that applies even in situations where the law provides no specific authorization for the use in question—as it does for certain narrowly defined classroom activities. (p.1)

Like literacy in general, media literacy is applied in a wide variety of contexts—when watching television or reading newspapers, for example, or when posting commentary to a blog. Indeed, media literacy is implicated everywhere one encounters information and entertainment content. (p.2)

...there is a climate of increased fear and confusion about copyright, which detracts from the quality of teaching. Lack of clarity reduces learning and limits the ability to use digital tools. Some educators close their classroom doors and hide what they fear is infringement; others hyper-comply with imagined rules that are far stricter than the law requires, limiting the effectiveness of their teaching and their students’ learning. (p.4)

...there have been no important court decisions—in fact, very few decisions of any kind—that actually interpret and apply the doctrine in an educational context. This means that educators who want to claim the benefits of fair use have a rare opportunity to be open and public about asserting the appropriateness of their practices and the justifications for them. (p.5)

In fact, the cultural value of copying is so well established that it is written into the social bargain at the heart of copyright law. The bargain is this: we as a society give limited property rights to creators to encourage them to produce culture; at the same time, we give other creators the chance to use that same copyrighted material, without permission or payment, in some circumstances. Without the second half of the bargain, we could all lose important new cultural work. (p.5)

Today, some educators mistakenly believe that the issues covered in the fair use principles below are not theirs to decide. They believe they must follow various kinds of “expert” guidance offered by others. In fact, the opposite is true. (p.7)

Experts (often non-lawyers) give conference workshops for K–12 teachers, technology coordinators, and library or media specialists where these guidelines and similar sets of purported rules are presented with rigid, official-looking tables and charts. At the same time, materials on copyright for the educational community tend to overstate the risk of educators being sued for copyright infringement—and in some cases convey outright misinformation about the subject. In effect, they interfere with genuine understanding of the purpose of copyright—to promote the advancement of knowledge through balancing the rights of owners and users. (p.8)

We don’t know of any lawsuit actually brought by an American media company against an educator over the use of media in the educational process. (p.17)

And lastly...

The next step is for educators to communicate their own learning about copyright and fair use to others, both through practice and through education. (p.14)

OK, folks, I hope your interest has been piqued. Download this document and read these statements in context where they are even more powerful. Share the document with fellow educators (especially your favorite librarian). Keep in mind these words from the document:

Educators need to be leaders, not followers, in establishing best practices in fair use.


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Reader Comments (2)

Its a great document and I really like the video. I searched the document for "librarian" and "media specialist" and some of the quotes (including one you listed above) imply that it is classroom teachers who should be educating school library media specialists about their fair use rights - that we have been too conservative. I am inclined to agree, and hope that this document will enable us to all get on the same page and do some advocacy work, to the benefit of our students.

November 13, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterBeth

Hi Beth,

Yes, this document is aimed at media literacy teachers (broadly defined). As always, I suspect we will be co-learners with teachers. The document, I feel, reinforces my contention that we need to move from being copyright cops to copyright counselors.

All the best and thanks for the comment,


November 15, 2008 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

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