My 6th grader brought home some forms for his new spring classes this term, including a leadership class. His teacher is going to be showing the following full-length movies in class this semester:
- 101 Dalmations
- Bee Movie
- Toy Story 1
- Toy Story 2
- Horton Hears a Who
- Finding Nemo
- The Incredibles
- Madagascar 2
Copyright and fair-use issues in schools are often poorly understood by educators. My most recent post about this, on 21 December 2009, was “Fair Use in Videos Using Pictures with Copyrighted Music.” In that post, I questioned the legality (under fair use provisions of U.S. copyright law) of using an entire copyrighted song for a web-posted slideshow video. In this post, I want to question the propriety and legality of using ten full-length movies in their entirety in a student leadership class taught in the United States, without explicit permission granted from the copyright holders. Use of full-length commercial DVDs definitely CAN qualify under fair use provisions of law in some cases, but TEN COMMERCIAL DVDs? I don’t think so.
The “Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Media Literacy Education,” from the Center for Social Media, is the best resource of which I’m aware that addresses these issues and gives practical, research and legal based advice for educators. The leadership course in which my son is enrolled is NOT a “media literacy” class, but the fair use principles discussed in this code of best practices still apply.
Principle one of the code addresses “Employing Copyrighted Material In Media Literacy Lessons.” Under the heading of “limitations” the code states:
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.
This resonates with my initial reaction to the note my son brought home today. It seems like a GREAT idea for a teacher to use excerpts and clips from movies to illustrate leadership principles and concepts, but it does NOT seem legit to show ten full length DVD movies in class to ostensibly achieve this same purpose.
Observing this planned copyright / fair use situation as a parent puts me in a bit of an awkward place. I want to continue and expand my involvement as a parent volunteer and resource to the educators at my son’s school, as we hope our younger children will also attend there and we plan to have a “long term relationship” with teachers and administrators there. I definitely don’t want to be primarily seen as a troublemaking parent who is giving a particular teacher or the school overall a “black eye” for mis-using media. I also want to ENCOURAGE more extensive uses of media to support learning when those uses are constructive, appropriate, and legal. My work for our Celebrate Oklahoma Voices project and Storychasers are cases in point.
At the same time, however, I think we have obligations as educators and even as citizens when we recognize aberrant and/or illegal behavior.
I think I’ll find a time to meet with my son’s teacher and discuss these concerns together face-to-face. I’m sure the teacher would be reluctant to revise the course outline at this point, and unlikely to do so based on my feedback/opinion, but I think I ought to raise these issues in person rather than just blog about them.
I’ll report back on what happens.
These proposed uses of commercially-copyrighted DVD movies to discuss “leadership principles” are certainly less egregious copyright violations than the typical “let’s watch a bunch of movies at school in class now that it’s the end of the term for entertainment” situations that are often common in our schools as well. I heard about lots of the latter cases on our morning carpool rides this year just before the winter holidays, but didn’t say anything / take any action then. It would be easier to just not say anything about this situation to my son’s teacher. I don’t think that would be the right thing to do, however.
I’m looking forward to Renee Hobbs‘ ISTE 2010 presentation, “Technology Education Leaders Learn about the Power of Fair Use” and forthcoming book, “Copyright Clarity: Fair Use and Digital Learning.” The “Copyright and Fair Use” materials provided by the Media Education Lab at Temple University (where Dr. Hobbs works) continues to be one of the best sources around for up to date, practical information about copyright issues for educators. Dr. Hobbs’ September 2008 presentation in Oklahoma, “Media Literacy as Literacy for the Information Age,” is one of the most popular audio podcasts I’ve ever published, with over 5000 downloads to date.
WWRHD? (What would Renee Hobbs Do?)
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