Fair Use and Foreign Policy Mashups in the Classroom
Students in the Foreign Policy and the Press Course at American University learned all about fair use from graduate fellows Katie Bieze and Maria Howell last week. The class needed the information to complete an assignment creating video mashups that make a journalistic commentary on a foreign policy issue.
After screening a few examples of fair use employed effectively in video mash-ups created by students in the Film & Media Arts program (like these), the class quickly understood the basic tenets of the Code of Best Practices for Fair Use in Online Video.
Their problems were familiar. One group wanted to use Lady Gaga's song "Bad Romance" in a video mash-up about the relationship between the United States of America and China. They were confident they were "transforming" the song--using it for a different purpose than the original use. But how much was appropriate to use? A chorus? A few lines? The whole song?
There is, of course, no magic number of seconds or percentage of a piece of material to determine fair use. The legitimacy of the use depends on the strength of the reasoning. The students had a sound transformative reason (the Lady Gaga song, because it is well-known, makes an ironic commentary on the geopolitical relationship). They now needed to articulate their reason for using as much as they would eventually decide to use.
Use of music as a soundtrack in a music video is currently outside the scope of the Code of Best Practices for Online Video, but with a strong justification could easily still be a fair use. By the end of the session, it was clear that the Codes do not encompass the entire range of fair use, but they do identify the most common situations in which it occurs in a given area, and provide the reasoning for use in these situations.
The students, now equipped with an understanding of the best practices, can sample clips with not only a better understanding of their fair use rights, but with acceptable responses prepared against any possible takedown requests.
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