Copyright unbound…

My second day at STN ended with a small focused workshop on Copyright Confusion, put on by the Center for Social Media. Like most teachers (and media types) I have a rudimentary (read minimal) knowledge of the Fair Use doctrine. Today I got myself educated…or at least learned enough to know how little I know.

The first thing I learned (courtesy of presenter Dr. Renee Hobbs) was that there is no case law involving educators sued for copyright infringement for using Fair Use. Never. It appears that the “cease and desist” letters sent out by corporate lawyers work and have created an atmosphere of fear. According to CFSM, educators cope with their desire to use current media in the classroom in one of three ways: See no evil aka what I don’t know can’t stop me from doing what I want; Close the door aka what YOU don’t see can’t stop me from doing what I want; Hyper-comply aka I will comply with such rigidity that I don’t care if my students learn. None of these are right, according to Hobbs:

“Most legal scholars argue the guidelines have done more harm than good…”

And the guidelines which most teachers abide by ARE NOT LAW. According to CSFM:

The confusion over the role of fair use guidelines began when, in the run-up to the 1976 revision of the Copyright Act, Congressman Robert Kastenmeier brought together representatives of publishers and educators to negotiate an “Agreement on Guidelines for Classroom Photocopying in Not-For-Profit Educational Institutions.” The guidelines that emerged (and are now widely available on library and college Web sites) were drafted primarily by the publishers and were included in the legislative history, despite letters of protest from representatives of the American Association of University Professors and of the Association of American Law Schools.”

Hmmmm….now there’s the rub: “…drafted primarily by the publishers…”

Hobbs and CFSM push for balanced knowledge of the law, which is “intended to balance the rights of users with the rights of owners, by encouraging the widespread and flexible use of cultural products.”

As I listened I realized how open this law really is…and how flexible. Fair Use has four elements:
1. What is the purpose of your use
2. What is the character of the work you are using
3. What is the amount of the work you are using
4. What is the impact of your use on the market
Apparently the key to Fair Use is transformation – how do you transform the original use of the work to a new use or to something new (and original). It is illegal to make copies of a popular song…and just as illegal to make copies of a music video. However, if you are teaching video it is Fair Use to take a popular song and use it to teach students a skill, such as production of a music video AS LONG AS IT DOES NOT LEAVE THE CLASSROOM. You’ve transformed the original use of the song from entertainment to an instructional tool. Be warned, this is murky water and, as mentioned at the beginning of this blog, there is no case law supporting educators. Hobbs did cite a Grateful Dead case (Bill Graham v. Dorling-Kimberly) in which a poster was used in a book about the history of the Grateful Dead. The poster was originally used to promote appearance of the band. The courts ruled that the use of the poster had been “transformed” to a new use.

Knowledge is power….but remember if you step outside the safety zone of the official agreement, you are an outlaw – outside of what many educational administrators feel comfortable with. So are you – an OUTlaw?


Friday STN update…

There’s something invigorating about being up early and learning (rather than teaching). I was blown away this morning in a session at STN’s (Student Television Network) confab this am. Dave Wertheimer and Dean Staley kept an audience of students and advisers on the edges of their seats for a full hour as they discoursed on laptop journalists – aka one-man-bands in broadcast jingo. Dave’s on the faculty of the NPPA Workshop and a gentle wonder of a man. Dean’s a former co-worker and they are BOTH VJs. They BOTH play the solo virtuoso…and this morning’s session was loaded memorable advice and quotes.

“The best photographers are the best reporters. The best reporters are the best photographers.”

Dave kept talking about “the other voices in my head.” He says those are the voices that remind to get all of the shots and ask him what he forgot. He also has a virtual toolbox he always has with him that include heart, head, and ears and a lots more. But it was the videos he showed that captivated us and reminded me what great work can be done by a person with a passion for their job. With a simple hand-held, rather than his Beta SX, he shot a short New Years Day video on folks out enjoying the first day of the year that was pure unadulterated joy. Another short breaker on a deer caught in an icy pond and the desperate attempts to rescue it. And many examples of excellent work by broadcast videojournalists from across the country.

Being an old newsie I’m pretty cynical…opening ceremonies and keynote speakers just don’t jump-start me in the morning (usually they’re better as sleeping aides). So I was gonna pass on the opening ceremonies but decided to give them a shot and was glad I stayed. Asides from the high (way TOO high at that hour of the morning) energy of the students, Bob Dotson made this trip worthwhile. Now I’ve known reporters and anchors and have really connected with only a few of them. Many are another breed…professionals with a capital “P.” They’re on the star track or have their noses so deep in the industry that they forget why they’re doing news. Dotson hasn’t forgotten. He’s traveled the globe as an NBC news correspondent and he’s got (opinion) the dream job. Talking with real people. A few quotes that stuck in my brain (and my notebook, which came out REAL quick).

“Not much has changed in storytelling since the cavemen.”

He followed up on that thought by pointing out that the technology to tell the stories changes constantly.

His advice for telling a story has four elements.


A “hey” to get your audience’s attention.


This story is about “you.”


The two or three things about the story that you the reporter has learned that no one else has seen.


Here’s why I did this story.

“If you follow real people and see what they do, you’ll have a real story.”

“Look for the people standing in the shadows because sometimes they have the most fascinating stories.”

Dean Staley and Dotson both told students to include the Internet in their career plans. Dean pointed out that the industry is shifting…Gannett is pushing the one-man-band for it’s broadcast departments. Dotson that with the Internet and affordable cameras/computers everyone can tell a story….but you need to tell a story that can hold the audience so they will return…something worth moving to a venue such as the Internet.

Oh wow…I’m stoked again. Listen up those of you fortunate enough to be part of this – this is the BEST time to be alive and working in news since the printing press…since the early days of radio and television…this is a time of unimaginable CHANGE!!! The wild west lives and the Lone Ranger rides again…but his faithful sidekick is a camera and he’s riding the Internet via a computer.

(by the way thanks to schooltube for letting me use their computers to post this.)

Student Television Network approaches…

It’s time again for the annual Student Television Network Conference…once again in Anaheim (CA). For those of you attending this year I’m putting on a couple of new workshops – convergence of media on the Internet and and hands-on lighting workshop. Yeah, in the past I’ve done lighting but have been rushed at the end as folks tried to get hands on in the few remaining minutes before we had to give the room up for the next session.

Painting with light
Learn the basics and more about using light to create great looking interviews and b-roll shots. You’ll learn when to use an on-camera light and how to use one, two, or three lights for the best effect.
Demonstration and hands-on, so bring your gear if you have questions and be prepared to learn or be lit up (presenter will look for “volunteers” to sit in the hot seat). I’ll try to keep the “lecture” to a minimum and hands-on to the max.

Web video
It’s not just broadcast news producing news video. Newspapers and citizens are now posting to the Internet. Your job options are both broadening and shrinking. What skills do YOU need to join the convergence movement? Will the TV model become the standard or are there other models that are more appealing? It’s a wild new world and you, as tomorrow’s video journalists, are the future.

So that is that…and if you’re a student or educator who is planning to attend, let me know what you would like included in these sessions. I’m adaptable. These sessions (and others) are sponsored by RTNDF.

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