If you’ve spent much time helping students and teachers create with media, you’ve almost certainly run into some form of this question: “Can I use [song X] in my video project and just make a synchronized slide show of photos with it?” Implicit within this question are a series of other questions, including:
- Will this use of a copyrighted song without permission qualify as “fair use” and therefore be legally permissible?
- How does the publishing venue change the answer to this question? (i.e. if the video is published on the open web, accessible to anyone without a password or login, is that different than only sharing it with others face-to-face or within a walled-garden learning management system?)
In our Celebrate Oklahoma Voices learning community, we encourage participants to create short videos which incorporate audio narration with interview audio they’ve captured using a portable mp3 recorder. We don’t encourage participants to take a set of photos and simply sync them to a copyrighted music track, later publishing that video on our website. This situation DID happen this past fall, and we did not approve that video to be included in our online learning community. It did not seem to qualify as “fair use” because it simply wasn’t very transformative, it was simply photos synced to a song. It was touching, but didn’t seem to pass copyright / fair use “muster.”
Today I came across the YouTube video “My Favorite Things,” which is a video of synchronized photos utilizing Julie Andrew’s well known rendition of this song from the musical, “The Sound of Music.” This video is included on the website TOTLOL.
I love this song and it’s wonderful to see it synchronized to relevant photographs, but I wonder if this is legal fair use? My sense is that it isn’t. Temple University’s Media Education Lab’s “Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Media Literacy Education” focuses on the need to create TRANSFORMATIVE media products. I’m not comfortable with videos like the one above passing this litmus test, especially when they are shared on the open web. Yet there this video is, shared both on YouTube and TOTLOL.
Mathew Needleman‘s K12Online09 presentation, “Steal This Preso! Copyrights, Fair Use, and Pirates in the Classroom,” addresses these very issues. I have not seen it yet, but am eager to hear how Mathew addresses these issues and would answer this question. Joyce Valenza and Kristin Hokanson, who have been very involved with the copyright work of Temple University and others focused on fair use and “transformativeness” in media products, could also share valuable perspectives on these questions I’m sure.
What’s your take? Would you be comfortable with students and teachers at your school posting videos similar to “My Favorite Things” on your school or class website?
The copyright and fair use resources we sharing during our COV workshops are available on our project wiki.
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