Shedding Light on Fair Use FUD: Center for Social Media Releases “Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Media Literacy Education”

The Center for Social Media, in conjunction with the Program on Information, Justice and Intellectual Property, and the Media Education Lab, released the Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Media Literacy Education. This important document helps dispel more of the FUD–Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt–behind fair use in the classroom. The Code is central to informing the teaching practices of media literacy educators, whether in K-12 education, higher ed, or other areas. The documents is also particularly useful for librarians and school library media specialists who aid instructors in identifying and utilizing a wide array of copyrighted educational resources for classroom uses.

Media literacy is central to the 21st century learning environment, is “implicated everywhere one encounters information and entertainment content,” and often is “embedded within other subject areas, including literature, history, anthropology, sociology, public health, journalism, communication, and education.” The Code points out that while educators already are granted certain exemptions to use copyrighted materials under Sections 110(1) and (2) of the Copyright Act, the document underscores the importance of understanding the application of fair use in the classroom. It urges educators to think critically about copyright “guidelines” and other advice offered by industry “experts.” While these guidelines may provide quick and dirty answers for use of copyrighted materials on the ground, they are not law and often “overstate the risk of being sued for copyright infringement, and in some cases convey outright misinformation about the subject.”

The Code outlines 5 basic principles for fair use in using copyrighted materials in media literacy education:

  1. Educators should be able to use copyrighted material in direct media literacy lessons
  2. Educators should be able to use copyrighted material in preparing curriculum materials
  3. Educators should be able to share copyrighted material used in media literacy curriculum materials
  4. Students should be able to use copyrighted materials in their own academic and creative work
  5. Students should be able to distribute their work if it meets a transformativeness standard

The Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Media Literacy Education joins several other enlightening projects released by the Center for Social Media, including the Cost of Copyright Confusion for Media Literacy, the Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Online Video, and the Documentary Filmmakers’ Statement of Best Practices in Fair Use.

Download “Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Media Literacy Education” (PDF).

About Jacob Roberts

Jacob Roberts is the communications specialist for the ALA Washington Office.

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