Unlocking the Power of Film for Education: Seeking a DMCA Exemption for Media Literacy Education


Unlocking the Power of Film forEducation:

Seeking a DMCA Exemption for MediaLiteracy Education

By Renee Hobbs, Temple University

Media Education Lab, School of Communicationsand Theater, Philadelphia PA

Panel Discussion: Contesting Copyright onCampus, April 9, 2011

Conference on College Composition and Communication, Atlanta GA


Why Copyright Matters for Digital Learning

More and more faculty and students now require adeeper understanding of their rights and responsibilities under copyright lawbecause new instructional practices rely on digital and media literacy:critical analysis and creative media composition are becoming an integral partof the learning process.


Hosing out the Myths and Misinformation

If you think you can only use 10% of a video or song, 2000 words of achapter, or that you must erase a copy of a video you taped off-air after 30days, you may not fully understand copyright law. Perhaps you're confused bythe various "educational use guidelines" that have been negotiated by lawyers and some educational groups. These guidelines may actually interferewith people's understanding of the law.


Distinguishing between Attribution, Plagiarism and Copyright Infringement

If you think that you can use copyrighted materials for any purpose aslong as you "cite your sources," you may be confused about thedifference between attribution, plagiarism and copyright infringement.


Exploring the Purpose of Copyright

If you think copyright law is all about owners' rights to make money,you have a distorted understanding of the purpose of copyright law. In recentyears, large media companies have been successful in enlarging the scope ofprotections offered to copyright holders under the law. But as stated in the U.S. Constitution, the purposeof copyrightlaw is to promote creativity, innovation and the spread of knowledge.


Making a Fair Use Determination

Fair use provides the necessary balance between the rights of copyrightholders and the rights of users, fulfilling copyright's mission to promoteknowledge, creativity and the spread of innovation. But it takes practice toexercise your fair use muscles. To appreciate the spirit of the law, it’simportant to analyze the context and situation of particular uses ofcopyrighted materials. Ask yourself: does the user’s use of copyrightedmaterials benefit society more than it hurts the copyright holder?


Understanding Licensing Schemes

Sometimes when you want to use copyrightedmaterials in your own creative work, you may not be able to claim fair use. Ifyou make a fair use determination and decide that your use of copyrightedmaterials may fit under the fair use exemption, then you can ask the copyrightholder's permission or use a licensing scheme. Today there are new licensing schemes like Creative Commons that enable authors to encourage sharing of theircreative work.


Legal Process: How the Law Actually Works

Most people are aware that there are no"copyright police." The copyright holder is responsible foridentifying infringement. If a copyright holder wishes to pursue legal actionagainst a user, there are many steps involved and at each stage of the process,there is an opportunity to evaluate and assess the likelihood of a legaljudgment.


Understanding and Challenging DMCA

When Congress enacted the Digital Millennium Copyright Act in 1998, it protected the movie industry by enabling companies toencrypt files in ways that may limit people’s fair use. Teachers and students whowant to use digital clips for teaching and learning struggle with this. Only byrequesting a 3-year exemption from the U.S. Copyright Office can this limitation in the law be redressed. In 2010, users were granted the right to legallybypass encryption in order to create clips for purposes of comment andcriticism for educational, documentary and non-profit purposes. InternetService Providers (ISPs) like YouTube and Google are exempted from copyrightliability through creating a "takedown" process when copyrightholders believe that users have infringed. Users who make fair use of copyrighted materials can exercise their legal rights by using acounter-notification process, requesting that their material be reinstated online.


The Politics of Intellectual Property

When exploring the topic of copyright andfair use, it's important to recognize a key principle of media literacy: thatall messages are constructed by people with various purposes, goals and pointsof view. There are divergent views about the future of copyright in a digitalage and each perspective offers some insight on the values of protectingauthorship and supporting sharing that contributes to build new knowledge andsupport innovation.


The Future of Copyright

The law is not fixed and static. Copyrightlaw changes in response to changes in society and technology. The law evolvesto meet these changes through case law and through legislation. Advocacy insupport of copyright and fair use is vital to preserve the interests ofeducators, students and users.




Renee Hobbs

Temple University, Media EducationLab, Philadelphia PA


Email: renee.hobbs@temple.edu

Twitter: reneehobbs

Hobbs at Conference on College Composition and Communication, Atlanta Georgia