Media Fair Use Guidelines

The Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Media Literacy Education
Complete Policy Manual (PDF)
 

PRINCIPLES

ONE:EMPLOYING COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL IN LESSONS

DESCRIPTION:Educators use television news, advertising, movies, still images, newspaper and magazine articles, Web sites, video games, and other copyrighted material to build critical-thinking and communication skills. Common instructional activities include comparison-contrast analysis, deconstruction (close analysis) of the form and content of a message, illustration of key points, and examination of the historical, economic, political, or social contexts in which a particular message was produced and is received.

PRINCIPLE:Under fair use, educators using the concepts and techniques of media literacy can choose illustrative material from the full range of copyrighted sources and make them available to learners, in class, in workshops, in informal mentoring and teaching settings, and on school-related Web sites.

LIMITATIONS:Educators should choose material that is germane to the project or topic, using only what is necessary for the educational goal or purpose for which it is being made. In some cases, this will mean using a clip or excerpt; in other cases, the whole work is needed. Whenever possible, educators should provide proper attribution and model citation practices that are appropriate to the form and context of use. Where illustrative material is made available in digital formats, educators should provide reasonable protection against third-party access and downloads.

TWO:EMPLOYING COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL IN PREPARING CURRICULUM MATERIALS

DESCRIPTION:Teachers use copyrighted materials in the creation of lesson plans, materials, tool kits, and curricula in order to apply the principles of media literacy education and use digital technologies effectively in an educational context. These materials often include clips, copies or examples of copyrighted work along with a description of instructional practices, assignments, and assessment criteria. These materials may include samples of contemporary mass media and popular culture as well as older media texts that provide historical or cultural context.

PRINCIPLE:Under fair use, educators using the concepts and techniques of media literacy can integrate copyrighted material into curriculum materials, including books, workbooks, podcasts, DVD compilations, videos, Web sites, and other materials designed for learning.

LIMITATIONS:Wherever possible, educators should provide attribution for quoted material, and of course they should use only what is necessary for the educational goal or purpose. The materials should meet professional standards for curriculum development, with clearly stated educational objectives, a description of instructional practices, assignments, and assessment criteria.

THREE:SHARING MEDIA LITERACY CURRICULUM MATERIALS

DESCRIPTION:Media literacy curriculum materials always include copyrighted content from mass media and popular culture. Informal sharing of these materials occurs at educational conferences and through professional development programs, as well by electronic means. Media literacy curriculum materials are also developed commercially in collaboration with publishers or nonprofit organizations.

PRINCIPLE:Educators using concepts and techniques of media literacy should be able to share effective examples of teaching about media and meaning with one another, including lessons and resource materials. If curriculum developers are making sound decisions on fair use when they create their materials, then their work should be able to be seen, used, and even purchased by anyone—since fair use applies to commercial materials as well as those produced outside the marketplace model.

LIMITATIONS:In materials they wish to share, curriculum developers should be especially careful to choose illustrations from copyrighted media that are necessary to meet the educational objectives of the lesson, using only what furthers the educational goal or purpose for which it is being made. Often this may mean using a small portion, clip or excerpt, rather than an entire work, although sometimes it may be permissible to use more—or even all. Curriculum developers should not rely on fair use when using copyrighted third-party images or texts to promote their materials. For promotional purposes, the permissions process is appropriate. In addition, if a teacher or a school has specifically agreed to a license, then (of course) its terms are likely to be binding—even if they impinge on what would otherwise be considered fair use. And, of course, illustrative material should be properly attributed wherever possible.

FOUR:STUDENT USE OF COPYRIGHTED MATERIALS IN THEIR OWN ACADEMIC AND CREATIVE WORK

DESCRIPTION:Students strengthen media literacy skills by creating messages and using such symbolic forms as language, images, sound, music, and digital media to express and share meaning. In learning to use video editing software and in creating remix videos, students learn how juxtaposition reshapes meaning. Students include excerpts from copyrighted material in their own creative work for many purposes, including for comment and criticism, for illustration, to stimulate public discussion, or in incidental or accidental ways (for example, when they make a video capturing a scene from everyday life where copyrighted music is playing).

PRINCIPLE:Because media literacy education cannot thrive unless learners themselves have the opportunity to learn about how media functions at the most practical level, educators using concepts and techniques of media literacy should be free to enable learners to incorporate, modify, and re-present existing media objects in their own classroom work. Media production can foster and deepen awareness of the constructed nature of all media, one of the key concepts of media literacy. The basis for fair use here is embedded in good pedagogy.

LIMITATIONS:Students’ use of copyrighted material should not be a substitute for creative effort. Students should be able to understand and demonstrate, in a manner appropriate to their developmental level, how their use of a copyrighted work repurposes or transforms the original. For example, students may use copyrighted music for a variety of purposes, but cannot rely on fair use when their goal is simply to establish a mood or convey an emotional tone, or when they employ popular songs simply to exploit their appeal and popularity. Again, material that is incorporated under fair use should be properly attributed wherever possible. Students should be encouraged to make their own careful assessments of fair use and should be reminded that attribution, in itself, does not convert an infringing use into a fair one.

FIVE:DEVELOPING AUDIENCES FOR STUDENT WORK

DESCRIPTION: Students who are expected to behave responsibly as media creators and who are encouraged to reach other people outside the classroom with their work learn most deeply. Although some student media productions are simply learning exercises designed to develop knowledge and skills, media literacy educators often design assignments so that students have the opportunity to distribute their work.

PRINCIPLE:Educators should work with learners to make a reasoned decision about distribution that reflects sound pedagogy and ethical values. In some cases, widespread distribution of students’ work (via the Internet, for example) is appropriate. If student work that incorporates, modifies, and re-presents existing media content meets the transformativeness standard, it can be distributed to wide audiences under the doctrine of fair use.

LIMITATIONS:Educators and learners in media literacy often make uses of copyrighted works outside the marketplace, for instance in the classroom, a conference, or within a school-wide or district-wide festival. When sharing is confined to a delimited network, such uses are more likely to receive special consideration under the fair use doctrine.

Especially in situations where students wish to share their work more broadly (by distributing it to the public, for example, or including it as part of a personal portfolio), educators should take the opportunity to model the real-world permissions process, with explicit emphasis not only on how that process works, but also on how it affects media making. In particular, educators should explore with students the distinction between material that should be licensed, material that is in the public domain or otherwise openly available, and copyrighted material that is subject to fair use. The ethical obligation to provide proper attribution also should be examined. And students should be encouraged to understand how their distribution of a work raises other ethical and social issues, including the privacy of the subjects involved in the media production.

CONCLUSION

Most “copyright education” that educators and learners have encountered has been shaped by the concerns of commercial copyright holders, whose understandable concern about large-scale copyright piracy has caused them to equate any unlicensed use of copyrighted material with stealing. The situation has been compounded by the—again understandable—risk-aversion of school system administrators and lawyers. So-called fair use guidelines that institutional stakeholders have negotiated with some copyright holders have had similar results, intensifying fear and creating confusion among educators. These approaches have not responded directly to the actual needs of educators and learners, nor have they fully expressed or recognized the legal rights that educators and learners have.

This code of best practices, by contrast, is shaped by educators for educators and the learners they serve, with the help of legal advisors. As an important first step in reclaiming their fair use rights, educators should employ this document to inform their own practices in the classroom and beyond. The next step is for educators to communicate their own learning about copyright and fair use to others, both through practice and through education. Learners mastering the concepts and techniques of media literacy need to learn about the important rights that all new creators, including themselves, have under copyright to use existing materials. Educators also need to share their knowledge and practice with critically important institutional allies and colleagues, such as librarians and school administrators.

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