The Washington Times - May 18, 2009, 11:07AM

Ready to post that hot video on Vimeo? Yearning to share a yodelling remix on YouTube? Be sure you know the ins-and-outs of copyright and something called “fair use,” American Unversity warns:

American University’s Center for Social Media and AU’s Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property, in collaboration with Stanford Law School’s Fair Use Project, are launching a new video explaining how online video creators can make remixes, mashups, and other common online video genres with the knowledge that they are staying within copyright law.

The video, titled Remix Culture: Fair Use Is Your Friend, explains the Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Online Video a first of its kind document—coordinated by AU professors Pat Aufderheide and Peter Jaszi—outlining what constitutes fair use in online video. The code was released July 2008.

“This video lets people know about the code, an essential creative tool, in the natural language of online video. The code protects this emerging zone from censorship and self-censorship,” said Aufderheide, director of the Center for Social Media and a professor in AU’s School of Communication. “Creators, online video providers, and copyright holders will be able to know when copying is stealing and when it’s legal.”

Like the code, the video identifies six kinds of unlicensed uses of copyrighted material that may be considered fair, under certain limitations.  They are:

  • Commenting or critiquing of copyrighted material
  • Use for illustration or example
  • Incidental or accidental capture of copyrighted material
  • Memorializing or rescuing of an experience or event
  • Use to launch a discussion
  • Recombining to make a new work, such as a mashup or a  remix, whose elements depend on relationships between existing works

For instance, a blogger’s critique of mainstream news is commentary. The fat cat sitting on the couch watching television is an example of incidental capture of copyrighted material. Many variations on the popular online video “Dramatic Chipmunk” may be considered fair use because they recombine existing work to create new meaning.

“The fair use doctrine is every bit as relevant in the digital domain as it has been for almost two centuries in the print environment,” said Jaszi, founder of the Program for Information Justice and Intellectual Property and a professor of law in AU’s Washington College of Law. “Here we see again the strong connection between the fair use principle in copyright and the guarantee of freedom of speech in the Constitution.”

Remix Culture: Fair Use Is Your Friend is a collaborative project of the Center for Social Media—a center of AU’s School of Communication—and the Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property—a program of AU’s Washington College of Law—along with Stanford Law School’s Fair Use Project.  It was funded by Google.

Now, I haven’t yet verified whether or not this is truly “a first of its kind document,” but whether or not that’s the case, making a case for being wise in using others’ copyrighted material makes a whole lot of sense. Let the remixer beware! (And, for the moment, let’s pass over the irony that Google, which funded the project, has made a not-so-small-fortune aggregating the copyrighted work of many, many people, shall we?)

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