The Center for Media & Social Impact has created a set of teaching tools for professors who are interested in teaching their students about fair use. The tools include powerpoints with lecture notes, guidelines for in-class discussions and exercises, assignments and grading rubrics. We hope you'll find them useful!
You may want to include some information on copyright in your syllabus. Here is some language to include in that section, specifically on fair use. This language has been reviewed by lawyers, including law professor Peter Jaszi of American University’s Washington College of Law and Michael Donaldson of Donaldson and Hart law firm, and it has been approved by the University Film and Video Association for use by its members. Take a look.
These powerpoints with lecture notes were designed to help professors teach students the basic information they need to understand how to use fair use when making documentary fllms and online videos. The powerpoints cover copyright, the idea of best practices, the general concept of fair use, and the specific categories and applications of fair use for documentary filmmakers and online video makers, respectively.
Fair Use Scenarios
To be used with the Documentary Filmmakers' Statement of Best Practices in Fair Use
Here are four filmmaking scenarios, or hypothetical situations, that a documentary filmmaker might find him or herself facing. The four scenarios are each linked to one of the Statement's categories. These can be used for classroom discussion, or to inspire you to write other scenarios. The goal of these scenarios is to allow discussion about what the fair and responsible thing to do would be in each case, not to find out "the right answer." These scenarios thus allow students to interpret the principles and limitations of fair use established by prodessional filmmakers in the Documentary Filmmaker's Statement of Best Practices in Fair Use.
There are several ways you can approach this for an in-class discussion: you could divide the class into groups and have every group discuss the same scenario and then come back together to see if groups agree. Or you could divide up the class and give every group a difference scenario to discuss. The groups could then report back and see if their classmates agree or disagree with them. Finally, you could choose one scenario and divide the class in half. Have one group argue for fair use and one argue against fair use. Whose argument is stronger and what does the class ultimately believe is the right answer?
In all of these, emphasize the importance of being able to articulate specific reasons they believe something is fair use (or is not). How is the copyrighted material transformed or not transformed? Is the amount of use proportional to the intention?
Here are several sets of fair use clips for professors to use for in-class discussion. Since being able to defend the fair use decisions you make is critical to successfully using fair use, these clips allow students to practice explaining why something is fair use. You could look at these together as a whole class and then see what reasons people could come up with. Or, as above, you could divide the class into groups to decide and then report back.
SET 1: Fair Use in Documentary Film
This set of fair use clips is designed to be used with our Documentary Filmmaker's Statement of Best Practices in Fair Use. Read through the code, and then see if students can 1) identify which category each of the video clips falls under; and 2) articulate why the video is fair use. Students should use the reasoning from the Code, and make sure to cite specific examples from the video. What did the filmmakers do that transformed the material from its original context? Have them give any and all arguments that they think explain why the video is fair use. View the documentary film clips and download the key, which identifies the categories of fair use and explains why the clips are fair use.
SET 2: Fair Use in Online Video
This set of fair use clips is designed to be used with our Code of Best Practices for Fair Use in Online Video. Read through the code, and then see if students can 1) identify which category each of the video clips falls under; and 2) articulate why the video is fair use. Students should use the reasoning from the Code, and make sure to cite specific examples from the video. What did the video-makers do that transformed the material from its original context? Have them give any and all arguments that they think explain why the video is fair use. View the online video clips and download the key, which identifies the categories of fair use and explains why the clips are fair use.
SET 3: "Refrigerator Mothers"
In Refrigerator Mothers, about an era when mothers were blamed for their children's autism, J.J. Hanley and David Simpson quoted popular films of the era. In this section, you can see what clips they purchased, which clips they employed fair use for, and their reasonings for each decision. View the clips here.
SET 4: Examples of Successful Fair Use in Documentary Film
Filmmakers have been successfully employing fair use, even before the Statement of Best Practices clarified their common understandings. Here are some examples of uncontested choices for fair use. They are organized here according to the principles that filmmakers articulated in the Statement, in the categories used in the Statement. These categories are only four of the most common situations for filmmakers; some uses could be hybrid, and others might fall outside these four categories. View the clips here.
We welcome more examples at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Online Video (or Mashup) Assignment
Here are guidelines for a short video production assignment that requires students to incorporate copyrighted material into a video and defend the decisions they make using the Code of Best Practices in Online Video. The assignment includes resources for where students can find copyrighted material and how to go about downloading it, as well as a rubric for grading.
Download the assignment guidelines.
Download the grading rubric (for this and other production-based fair use assignments you might come up with).
Fair Use Analysis Assignment
Here is an assignment, similar to the discussion prompts above, that requires students to articulate why a video clip is fair use. The assignment will work with either the Documentary FIlmmakers' Statement of Best Practices in Fair Use or the Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Online Video. The assignment also includes a rubric for grading.
Here is a collection of videos that do a good job of explaining the Codes of Best Practices and the idea of Fair Use:
Examples of Remix Culture highlights some of the best of the many different videos online that are using fair use.
Fair Use and Free Speech explains the Documentary Filmmakers' Statement of Best Practices in Fair Use. It shows when and how it is legal to use copyrighted material within a documentary film.
And for younger audiences, Dramatic Chipmunk Tackles Fair Use Rights explains the basic concept of fair use in simple terms with entertaining animation.
A Guide to YouTube Removals
The Electronic Frontier Foundation has created a great guide that explains why videos get taken down off YouTube and how you can respond if you believe your video was taken down unfairly.
Fair Use Frequently Asked Questions
Since the release of The Statement of Best Practices we have received many inquires about fair use. Here are some of our more commonly asked items.
Reclaiming Fair Use: How To Put Balance Back In Copyright
Reclaiming Fair Use is a book that empowers creators of all kinds. Profs. Patricia Aufderheide, director of the Center for Social Media, and Peter Jaszi , Professor of Law in the Washington College of Law at American University, urge a robust embrace of a principle long-embedded in copyright law, but too often poorly understood—fair use.