Copyright best practices for communications scholars

Pat from American University's Center for Social Media writes in with new of the new "Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Scholarly Research in Communication:"
This code joins a suite of codes of best practices in fair use that enable users to employ their fair use rights with confidence. Every confident fair use user is also aware of the importance of balance in copyright provisions and the importance of asserting, defending and promoting provisions in copyright law that give people access to copyrighted material, to create more culture.

Communication scholars typically study copyrighted material, and with heightened anxiety around digital practices, they have sometimes found themselves either intimidated or in doubt about whether they or their students can conduct research:

* Professor Green wants to analyze popular sitcoms, but decides not to because she doesn't know if she can record and store them legally.

* Professor Green's best graduate student just finished his thesis, and it includes images of the advertisements his thesis critiques, but the librarian insists he needs permissions for all of them before the thesis can be filed in the library.

* Professor Green's colleague wants to use different kinds of violent incidents in popular films in a media effects experiment, but fears the experiment will violate copyright.

Under the U.S. doctrine of fair use (and under copyright exemptions of many other nations), all these actions would be legal, but as a survey conducted by International Communication Association (ICA) scholars found, scholars did not know their fair use rights.

Now, thanks to a joint effort by the ICA, the Center for Social Media, and the Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property at AU's Washington College of Law, scholars have a guide to proper use of the fair use doctrine: The Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Scholarly Research in Communication.

Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Scholarly Research in Communication (Thanks, Pat!)

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  1. but the librarian insists he needs permissions for all of them before the thesis can be filed in the library.

    This still happens? We in the library community have some work to do…

    1. Still happens… although from some stories I’ve heard, it is often at the direction of those external to the library. For example, I’ve heard of university libraries that won’t make dissertations available online unless the student has received permission like this, but the policy came from elsewhere (most likely at the direction of legal counsel). In at least one case, the university itself wouldn’t accept the dissertation until permissions had been granted, before even getting to the library.

      But yeah, the community still has some work to do…

  2. #1, that story doesn’t surprise me a bit. And I agree with #2 – it probably wasn’t the library’s idea to become the campus IP cops.

  3. I always liked how vague the rules were. “Educational use” can mean a whole lot of things. I would assume though that a UNIVERSITY taking a PAPER would have educational value. No child left behind people, download your way to an A already!

  4. I based my Master’s thesis pretty much entirely on copyright material. My solution was to not give a shit (and when it came to whether it could be held in the University’s library of theses, I could tick the box saying “Do not make public” with good reason, thus depriving the world of my vast knowledge! RAWR)

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