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Thursday, November 13, 2008

American University creates best practices guide for using copyrighted material in the classroom

An article from The Chronicle of Higher Education discusses a new guide called “Code of Best Practices in Fair USE for Media-Literacy Education.” The guide was created by American University’s Center for Social Media and provides educators using media literacy in the classroom an interpretation of the copyright doctrine of fair use. The document does not offer the limits of fair use rights but instead it describes how the creators of the document and their counsel believe rights should apply in certain recurring situations based on prior cases and legal interpretation. The authors of the guide hope that their work will help professors understand their rights better under current law. The document appears to encourage a more broad interpretation of fair use based on a set of five principles. There is an associated video that explains the purpose of the guide that is worth viewing to understand the perspective from which the guide was written. Many might not agree with the broad interpretation of the fair use doctrine, but that, in part is the point of this report and why it was created. Fair use is a concept that is arguably not well understood by faculty or students. In an increasingly digital context, where media literacy is a critical competency for future citizens, the bounds of fair use lack clarity and are open to a myriad range of interpretation. This report provides a stake and attempt to clarify fair use rights from one perspective. It will be interesting to see what happens next – particularly as course materials themselves become increasingly digital.

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