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BFTP: Fair Use Scenarios

A weekend Blue Skunk "feature" will be a revision of an old post. I'm calling this BFTP: Blast from the Past.  Original post November 15, 2008. In the past week or so, I've had two questions related to Fair Use of copyrighted materials - and I find myself as confused and coflicted as ever....

The principles and limitations [of Fair Use] are designed to guide your reasoning and to help you guide the reasoning of others. "The Code of Best Practices in Fair Use" Center for Media & Social Impact

It's long been my contention that you can't "teach" values. The best someone can do is create situations that help people define or refine their own values derived from information, conversation and reflection.

To this end, I've always used "scenarios" anytime I work with others on questions of ethics (and online safety). Scenarios form the heart of my book Learning Right from Wrong in the Digital Age.

The quote above from the professors at the Temple University Media Education Lab strikes me as great reason that some new scenarios need to be written that deal with fair use and copyright. Can such scenarios help librarians, teachers, and students reach "a level of comfort" using copyrighted materials within educational fair use guidelines?

Here's what one* might look like:

The PTO at Johnson Middle School is creating a "video yearbook" for students and families that document the school year. One parent wants to add a few news clips from network television and excerpts from popular songs and movies of the year along with the original video of school activities and events. "We want our children to remember not just what happened in school this year, but what happened in society," she opines. The PTO will sell the videos for just enough to cover the cost of production and fund a class field trip.

1. What is the copyrighted material? Who owns it?

2. Does the use of the work fall under fair use guidelines? Is the use transformational in nature? Can this be considered "educational" use?

3. What is your level of comfort in helping create such a product? Are there any changes or limits you might like to see that would make you more comfortable with this project?

What do you think? Would this be a valuable resource? How might the idea be improved? Any particularly knotty situations on fair use that scenarios should be written?

* Links to additional scenarios created

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Reader Comments (2)

Hi, Doug. Thank you for reposting the links to these scenarios, they will be great for discussions with students and adults. A couple of them aren't working for me - are the posts still out there somewhere? I get asked these kinds of questions in my role as a school librarian and I appreciate the models you've provided.

October 27, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBeth Redford

Hi Beth,

Thanks for the note. I fixed a couple that did not seem to be linking. Thanks for letting me know.

The search engine on the blog works amazing well too - if you are ever in immediate need.

All the best,


October 27, 2013 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

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