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Copyright & Fair Use for Video Essay Projects: Can You Use It?

A guide for students on how to use copyrighted and copyright-free materials in video essays.

Can You Use It?

Use the following Copyright Flowchart/Infographic by Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano to see if your use falls within any established mechanisms for copyright compliance (click to view full chart).

Copyright flowchart from Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano

 

 

Student Use of Copyrighted Materials in Academic and Creative Work

The Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Media Literacy Education describes student use of "language, images, sound, music, and digital media to express and share meaning" in their own scholarly and creative works (see Principle #4).  These include transformative uses such as comment and criticism, illustration, to stimulate public discussion, and incidential use of copyrighted materials.  

The guidelines also provide the following stipulation:

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.

In addition, proper attribution should be provided where ever possible.  Note that just because you cite/provide attribution, it does not make your use a fair one.

If your goal IS to establish mood or convey an emotional tone, consider using materials in the public domain or Creative Commons license instead (see resources on the Copyright-friendly Toolkit tab).

Best Practices for Online Video

If you will be creating a video for class, the Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Online Video lists the following acceptable practices for creating online videos.  Click on each item for more details:

1. Commenting on or critiquing of copyrighted material - for positive or negative commentary, parody, or to solicit commentary

2. Using copyrighted material for illustration or example - for illustrating a point.  Use gives new purpose to original material.

3. Capturing copyrighted material incidentally or accidentally - for the incidental capturing of music or images that be in the background as part of the recording of everyday settings.

4. Reproducing, reposting, or quoting in order to memorialize, preserve, or rescue an experience, an event, or a cultural phenomenon - memorializing a moment in order to transform its original intent.

5. Copying, restoring, and recirculating a work or part of a work for purposes of launching a discussion - transformation by using original work to launch a discussion.

6. Quoting in order to recombine elements to make a new work that depends for its meaning on (often unlikely) relationships between the elements  - creating new meaning by combining different materials.

Terms to Know

Transformative
Use of a copyrighted work that is different from its original intent.  For example, you wish to use a clip of a feature film to illustrate violence against women in your class video project about domestic violence.  This transforms the original video clip and is considered fair use of the material and requires no permission for use.

Amount 
The amount of a copyrighted work you use should be only the amount necessary to achieve the intended effect.

Attribution
To give appropriate credit to original content creators.  Attribution can also reduce the likelihood of complaints for your use of a work.  Attribution is also a term used within Creative Commons licenses as a stipulation for the use of a work and may include the name of the creator, a license notice, a disclaimer, and a link to the original material.

Good faith
A sincere and honest attempt to act fairly.  In terms of copyright, you demonstrate good faith by citing or providing attribution to the owners of the content you are using.

Codes of Best Practice for Fair Use

A number of communities of practice have published Best Practices in Fair Use, which provide scenarios for how fair use rights apply to common educational situations: