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Communication Scholarship Hobbled by Copyright Confusion

With the International Communication Association, the Center is releasing today Clipping Our Own Wings: Copyright and Creativity in Communication Research, a 17 page report on the problems communication scholars have with copyright policy.

The report shows that communication scholars regularly need to use copyrighted material, but don’t know their rights under the law. For instance: one communication scholar wants to analyze popular sitcoms, but decides not to because she doesn’t know if she can record and store them legally. Another wants to include images of the advertisements his book critiques, but the publisher insists on his getting permissions for all of them; when he tries to get permissions, the scholar can’t even get an answer to his queries. Yet another wants to use different kinds of violent incidents in popular films in a media effects experiment, but fears doing so will violate copyright.

Under fair use (and under copyright exemptions of many other nations), all these actions would be legal. However, as this report shows, far too many communications scholars do not know their rights. And as a result, they do less than the best possible scholarship—a harm that is avoidable, with education and ICA action.

The report, issued by the Ad-Hoc Committee on Copyright and Fair Use and the Media and Communication Task Force of the International Communication Association, recommends that the ICA create a Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Communication Scholarship. On the basis of the report, the ICA board has authorized the creation of a Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Communication Scholarship, to be created in conjunction with the Center and the Washington College of Law. That code will be released at the ICA annual meeting in Singapore in June 2010.

This code will join the suite of codes of best practices in fair use showcased on the Center’s fair use site.

Read the report here.