Tuesday was Veteran’s Day here in the United States, which is a time to remember, reflect, pay respects, and honor veterans. I was able to help facilitate a Veteran’s Day presentation (over a videconferencing and webstreaming connection made possible by Tandberg) by high school students and veterans in Asher, Oklahoma, Tuesday morning, and I’ll be posting links to an archived recording of that wonderful conference here soon.

Tuesday was also the day educators at Temple University announced The Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Media Literacy Education. (PDF) According to the guide’s opening section:

This document is a code of best practices that helps educators using media literacy concepts and techniques to interpret the copyright doctrine of fair use. Fair use is the right to use copyrighted material without permission or payment under some circumstances—especially when the cultural or social benefits of the use are predominant. It 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.

This guide identifies five principles that represent the media literacy education community’s current consensus about acceptable practices for the fair use of copyrighted materials, wherever and however it occurs: in K–12 education, in higher education, in nonprofit organizations that offer programs for children and youth, and in adult education.

When Dr. Renee Hobbs presented her OTEP conference keynote in Oklahoma this past September, “Media Literacy as Literacy for the Information Age,” she briefly discussed this document and the importance it would have for ALL educators and students using media materials to support learning. Dr. Joyce Valenza mentioned this forthcoming report to me at NECC 2008 as well, so I have been anticipating its release and publication since July.

A Ustream archive of the announcement of this document in Philadelphia at the National Constitution Center is available, but unfortunately the audio is a bit distorted in the first 4 minutes and 30 seconds of the recording. Thankfully the distortion WAS corrected by the AV gurus sharing the preso over Ustream, so just bear with the first 5 minutes of the recording– it DOES get better / clear!

Lesson Plans for Teaching about Copyright and Fair Use for Media Literacy Education are available on the “Unlocking Copyright Confusion” wiki. These are divided into five main categories:

  1. Section 1. Understanding Copyright
  2. Section 2. The Cost of Copyright Confusion
  3. Section 3. Defining and Applying Fair Use
  4. Section 4. The Five Principles
  5. Section 5. Advocacy

“Videos Illustrating Case Studies Showing Teachers Using Copyrighted Materials According To The Code Of Best Practices For Fair Use In Media Literacy Education” are available for elementary, high school, and college settings.

In addition to outlining principles for educators and students to utilize in making fair use determinations for media use, this Code of Best Practices also addresses multiple myths which are common in our schools when it comes to copyright and intellectual property issues. These include:

  1. Fair Use Is Too Unclear And Complicated For Me; It’s Better Left To Lawyers And Administrators.
  2. Educators Can Rely On “Rules Of Thumb” For Fair Use Guidance.
  3. School System Rules Are The Last Word Of Fair Use By Educators.
  4. Fair Use Is Just For Critiques, Commentaries, Or Parodies.
  5. If I’m Not Making Any Money Off It, It’s Fair Use. (And If I Am Making Money Off It, It’s Not.)
  6. Fair Use Is Only A Defense, Not A Right.
  7. Employing Fair Use Is Too Much Trouble; I Don’t Want To Fill Out Any Forms.
  8. Fair Use Could Get Me Sued.

This last “myth” may be the one which will get your attention first and that of your administrator, so I’ll quote the Code of Best Practice’s response in full:

Truth: That’s very, very unlikely. 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. Before even considering a lawsuit, a copyright owner typically will take the cheap and easy step of sending a “cease and desist” letter, sometimes leading the recipient to think that she is being sued rather than just threatened. An aggressive tone does not necessarily mean that the claims are legitimate or that a lawsuit will be filed.

I’ve added links to this Code of Best Practices and these copyright curriculum materials to our Copyright and Fair Use resource collection (a Google Site) for the Celebrate Oklahoma Voices digital storytelling project. I’m VERY enthused to be able to integrate these resources and guidelines into the workshops we’re providing for teachers here in Oklahoma focused on digital storytelling and video publication! 🙂

Many thanks to all the educators, advocates, and organizations who collaborated to create this Code of Best Practices!!! This document is VERY important for learners everywhere seeking to legally advance the causes of media literacy and digital storytelling in our schools and communities.

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5 Responses to Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Media Literacy Education

  1. Mathew says:

    Thank you for the link to the slideshow and for continuing to debunk some copyright myths and empower educators.

  2. Hey Wes…
    Just wanted to offer a link correction to the teaching materials on the wikispaces (gotta hate those typos:) The materials are available at
    http://copyrightconfusion.wikispaces.com/Teaching and also from the media lab itself.

    The thing that REALLY stood out for me as I listened to the release conference yesterday was that this release is only the FIRST STEP…educators need to step up (as you have) and encourage folks to download the statement and start to talk about it. We need to stop feeling threatened by the so called “rules” and reclaim our rights under Fair Use. National Council of Teachers of English has adopted the statement released yesterday and from the section entitled THE TYRANNY OF GUIDELINES AND EXPERTS states…
    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. The various negotiated agreements that have emerged since passage of the Copyright Act of 1976 have never had the force of law, and in fact, the guidelines bear little relationship to the actual doctrine of fair use. Sadly, as legal scholar Kenneth Crews has demonstrated in “The Law of Fair Use Guidelines,” The Ohio State Law Journal 62 (2001): 602-700, many publications for educators reproduce the guidelines uncritically, presenting them as standards that must be adhered to in order to act lawfully. 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.

    In fact, this is an area in which educators themselves should be leaders rather than followers. Often, they can assert their own rights under fair use to make these decisions on their own, without approval. In rare cases where doing so would bring them into conflict with misguided institutional policies, they should assert their rights and seek to have those policies changed. More generally, educators should share their knowledge of fair use rights with library and media specialists, technology specialists, and other school leaders to assure that their fair use rights are put into institutional practice.

    I encourage folks to JOIN THE WIKI and become advocates for their educational rights under fair use.

  3. Linda Dierks says:

    Wow, what a wealth of resources! Thanks for doing so much legwork for the rest of us.

  4. […] Recently a group of folks convened in an effort to consider the topic of fair use in education. The group generated a report and some have gone as far as to proclaim “Finally the end to copyright confusion has arrived”. The document generated by this group is available online (Best practices document – pdf) and various blogs have discussed the document and promoted the conclusions of the group (e.g., Speed of Creativity). […]

  5. Chad Lehman says:

    Thanks for sharing the slides. I watched some of the presentation via Kristin’s wiki but didn’t come across the slides until now. Thanks for sharing. This certainly clears things up for me a lot more. I still have a few questions about copyright and audio/video, though.

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