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So you have a fair use question?

You have a fair use question. Congratulations on exercising your fair use rights, which expand your freedom of expression! Your first resort, when you have a fair use question, is to find out if a community has created a code of best practices in fair use that would apply to you. Here is a list of the extant codes of best practices in fair use. 


Social Issue Documentary: The Evolution of Public Engagement

Hate Has No Home

Documentary films are serving as the core for innovative spaces and practices that mark a new kind of public media – accessible, participatory and inclusive. This article examines the campaigns surrounding three films: Not in Our Town, Lioness, and State of Fear to uncover how emerging strategies for online and offline engagement are laying the groundwork for "public media 2.0."


Honest Truths: Documentary Filmmakers on Ethical Challenges in Their Work


Honest TruthsThis study provides a map of perceived ethical challenges that documentary filmmakers—directors and producer-directors—in the United States identify in the practice of their craft. It summarizes the results of 45 long-form interviews in which filmmakers were asked simply to describe recent ethical challenges that surfaced in their work. This baseline research is necessary to begin any inquiry into ethical standards because the field has not yet articulated ethical standards specific to documentary.


Go to: Honest Truths (PDF)

Clipping Our Own Wings: Copyright and Creativity in Communication Research

Communication scholars need access to copyrighted material, need to make unlicensed uses of them in order to do their research, and often—especially within the United States—have the legal right to do so. But all too often they find themselves thwarted. This report demonstrates that scholars in communication frequently encounter confusion, fear, and frustration around the unlicensed use of copyrighted material. These problems, driven largely by misinformation and gatekeeper conservatism, inhibit researchers’ ability both to conduct rigorous analyses and to develop creative methodologies for the digital age.


Public Media 2.0: Dynamic, Engaged Publics

Public Media 2.0Public broadcasting, newspapers, magazines, and network newscasts have all played a central role in our democracy, informing citizens and guiding public conversation. But the top-down dissemination technologies that supported them are being supplanted by an open, many-to-many networked media environment. What platforms, standards, and practices will replace or transform legacy public media?

This white paper lays out an expanded vision for “public media 2.0” that places engaged publics at its core, showcasing innovative experiments from its “first two minutes,” and revealing related trends, stakeholders, and policies. Public media 2.0 may look and function differently, but it will share the same goals as the projects that preceded it: educating, informing, and mobilizing its users.


The Future of Public Media: FAQ

This FAQ anchors our research and discussions, by defining a “public” as a role that people in a democratic society play. They play that role using the tools and skills of communication, informed by media projects and outlets. This FAQ was developed through conversation with our peers in the participatory tradition of the “Frequenetly Asked Questions” document, an Internet-era literary form. 


Code of Best Practices for Sustainable Filmmaking

Welcome to the Code of Best Practices in Sustainable Filmmaking. This site currently contains the Code’s Principles (see below) as well as its checklists, carbon trackers, and Web resources. These may be downloaded from the Code. We are working to create an independent website for this project, where we will provide comprehensive and interactive resources for those interested in sustainable filmmaking. 


The View from the Top: P.O.V. Leaders on the Struggle to Create Truly Public Media

POVOn the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the groundbreaking PBS documentary series P.O.V., the Center for Social Media interviewed several of those who have led the project through its last two decades on the goals, challenges, and the vision for one of television's most productive sites for imagining and innovating the future of public media.


The Law of Fair Use and the Illusion of Fair-Use Guidelines

Several “official” and formal guidelines that attempt to define the scope of fair use for specific applications—notably for education, research, and library services—have emerged in the years since passage of the Copyright Act of 1976. Although some interested parties and some governmental agencies have welcomed these guidelines, none of them ever has had the force of law. This article analyzes the origins of guidelines, the various governmental documents and court rulings that reference the guidelines, and the substantive content of the guidelines themselves to demonstrate that in fact the guidelines bear little relationship, if any, to the law of fair use.



Copyright, Fair Use and Motion Pictures

The increasing reliance of motion picture production on the appropriation of reality has given rise to tensions that have been expressed in terms of conflicts over copyright. These tensions have become more acute over time, as the “real” environment has become more and more saturated with media artifacts, and as copyright law itself has extended its domain over more and more of those media objects.

Within copyright law, the tension between contemporary creators’ needs for access to preexisting material, on the one hand, and the imperatives of copyright ownership, on the other, are mediated primarily by the so-called “fair use” doctrine. The application of this venerable legal concept, which exempts some substantial takings of protected content from infringement liability, is the subject of this essay.