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Fair Use Experts Help Journalists Avoid Risk, Self-Censorship

SOC Professor Pat Aufderheide (left) and Washington College of Law Professor Peter Jaszi developed a set of principles to help reporters decide when they can use content from the web, social media, podcasts and beyond, without permission or payment.

What constitutes fair use in journalism? American University’s Center for Social Media and Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property, in conjunction with the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, have developed the Set of Principles in Fair Use for Journalism to help answer that question. The principles were released at a TEDx event at the Poynter Institute in Florida.
 
This set of principles, drafted by School of Communication Professor Pat Aufderheide and Washington College of Law Professor Peter Jaszi, helps reporters decide when it is OK to use content from the web, social media, podcasts and beyond, without permission or payment.

When journalists are paralyzed by confusion about what copyrighted material they can use without permission, they self-censor, researchers say. The principles not only improve efficiency and effectiveness in today’s journalism by lowering risk and increasing confidence, but also enable innovation in digital space.
 
“We were honored to work with journalists to overcome the crippling effects of self-censorship,” said Patricia Aufderheide, director of the Center for Social Media. An initial study had shown that self-censorship was a major consequence of copyright confusion. In the arenas of greatest innovation, where journalists are developing web-native journalism, there was the greatest confusion.
 
Dave Cohn, founder/director of Spot.Us and director of news at Circa, agreed. "Every web-native journalist needs to know how to use copyright law, and this set of principles reduces risk while encouraging the highest standards in cutting edge journalism."
 
Like other such community-driven documents facilitated by Aufderheide and Jaszi, the Set of Principles reduces likelihood of copyright infringement by clarifying professional community standards and will be of value to journalists of all kinds.
 
The Set of Principles, noted Sandy Close, Executive Director of New America Media, “will help [journalists] make decisions about their own unlicensed uses more efficiently and with greater confidence, and it will also allow them to understand when they should challenge others’ infringing uses of their journalism.”  
 
The new manual was shaped with the help of chapters of the Society for Professional Journalists, Online News Association and the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies. It has endorsement from, among others, Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, Association of Schools of Journalism and Mass Communication, Association of Alternative Newsmedia, J-Lab, MediaShift, National Association of Black Journalists Digital Journalism Task Force, New America Media, and the Poynter Institute.