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Fair Use at the UFVA Conference

I just got back from the annual University Film and Video Association (UFVA) conference in New Orleans. Although the association and the conference are generally for university professors who are teaching film and video production classes, the Center for Social Media has long been active with the UFVA, as we develop resources that can help filmmakers and teachers of filmmaking. For the past few years, the Center has gone to the conference to promote its Documentary Filmmakers' Statement of Best Practices in Fair Use, and to encourage and educate professors about how they can use the Statement in their own work and their students' work. This year was no exception.

On Thursday, I participated in a panel entitled "The Growth of the Fair Use Movement: Making, Teaching, Sharing." The topic was clearly a relevant one, as the room was packed full. Professor Giovanna Chesler of Marymount Manhattan College started off the conversation, discussing her process for teaching students about Fair Use and encouraging them to use it in their work. She pointed teachers to a number of great resources for learning about Fair Use, including the Statement of Best Practices and the Center's series of video clips of good examples of Fair Use. She was followed by Michael Donaldson--one of the lawyers who helped us develop the Statement of Best Practices--who described the questions he uses to assess whether something is Fair Use: did you need to use the clip that you used (or could you have used something else), did you use only as much of the clip as you needed to make your point, and is the reason for needing the clip clear? He also discussed some of the most most recent legal battles and victories for filmmakers working to claim their Fair Use rights, including the "Let's Go Crazy" video: while the judge ruled the incidental use of the song was Fair Use, the ruling is currently being appealed. Then Gordon Quinn of Kartemquin Films talked about the importance of Fair Use in his documentary work, and discussed the campaign being waged to grant filmmakers an exemption to DMCA restrictions on copyrighted material. (The DMCA--or Digital Millenium Copyright Act--gave distributors the right to encrypt their DVDs so they couldn't be illegally copied. The problem, however, is that by encrypting the material, they are preventing filmmakers from being able to legally access and use--under their Fair Use rights--the material.) Finally, I wrapped up the panel by talking about the UFVA's history of adopting and working with Fair Use principles and then presented our latest video, Remix Culture: Fair Use Is Your Friend as a tool for professors and students interested in better understanding their Fair Use rights when creating online video projects.

It was fantastic to see so many professor interested in Fair Use, and it was a lot of fun to be on a panel that generated so many questions and so much excitement. I'm looking forward to seeing how we at the Center can best help UFVA professors use and teach Fair Use in the year to come!