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The Code of Best Practices for Fair Use in Media Literacy Education

The Code of Best Practices for Fair Use in Media Literacy Education

Written by Erin Wilkey Oh
September 23, 2010

As the Internet increases our access to media, and with reproduction and mass distribution of digital content possible with the click of a mouse, fear of copyright infringement plagues many teachers. We have heard that the copyright doctrine of fair use somehow protects educators, but many of us are unsure of how to interpret the law.

I could get sued for using copyrighted materials! Or lose my job! It isn’t worth the risk.

Sound familiar? According to The Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Media Literacy Education (PDF), this statement illustrates one of the common myths educators have regarding the copyright doctrine of fair use.

As the Internet increases our access to media, and with reproduction and mass distribution of digital content possible with the click of a mouse, fear of copyright infringement plagues many teachers. We have heard that the copyright doctrine of fair use somehow protects educators, but many of us are unsure of how to interpret the law.

According to studies documented in The Cost of Copyright Confusion for Media Literacy, misinformation regarding copyright law hinders many educators from using more effective teaching techniques and from taking advantage of new digital platforms. In direct response to this study, media literacy scholars and legal advisors from the Media Education Lab, The Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property, and the Center for Social Media developed this Code of Best Practices to help educators make thoughtful decisions about interpreting the copyright doctrine of fair use to support media literacy education.

This Code of Best Practices has been adopted by several educational organizations, including the National Council of Teachers of English and the Action Coalition for Media Education.

Using the Code
The Code of Best Practices highlights five principles about fair use representing the media literacy education community’s current thinking. The guidelines are not definitive, as in “do this, don’t do that,” but rather are a starting point for teachers and students to analyze how fair use applies in particular situations.

The five principles:
1. Employing copyrighted material in media literacy lessons
2. Employing copyrighted material in preparing curriculum materials
3. Sharing media literacy curriculum materials
4. Student use of copyrighted materials in their own academic and creative work
5. Developing audiences for student work

Additional Resources for the Classroom
In addition to the Code of Best Practices document, The Media Education Lab provides supplementary resources for use in the classroom. There are videos, PowerPoint presentations, and lesson plans to help teachers and students expand their thinking about the copyright doctrine of fair use.

For a fun way to jumpstart classroom discussion about fair use, try one of these music videos created by the Media Education Lab’s Michael RobbGrieco!

What’s Copyright?

User’s Rights, Section 107

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