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New Video Says Creators Have a Friend in Fair Use

Zia Holder works at SOC's Center for Social Media

Center for Social Media staff member Zia Holder appears in Remix Culture: Fair Use Is Your Friend

The Internet is full of online videos that combine new images with existing, often copyrighted material to create a fresh, original work. But are these mash ups and other new genres legal?

They often are, say the creators of Remix Culture: Fair Use Is Your Friend, a lively seven-minute video that shows how video makers can explore new creative territory online while respecting copyright law.

The video explains a first-of-its-kind document—the Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Online Video. Released in 2008, the code was developed by Patricia Aufderheide, a professor at American University School of Communication and director of its Center for Social Media, and Peter Jaszi, a professor at AU’s Washington College of Law and founder of its Program for Information Justice and Intellectual Property.

Remix Culture: Fair Use Is Your Friend uses humor, animation and familiar video examples to show six different ways in which video creators can use unlicensed copyrighted material fairly, without violating copyright. These instances of fair use include:

  • Commenting or critiquing of copyrighted material
  • Using copyrighted material for illustration or example
  • Incidental or accidental capture of copyrighted material
  • Memorializing or rescuing of an experience or event
  • Launching a discussion with copyrighted material
  • Recombining to make a new work, such as a mashup or a remix, whose elements depend on relationships between existing works

For instance, a blogger’s critique of mainstream news is commentary. The fat cat sitting on the couch watching television is an example of incidental capture of copyrighted material. Many variations on the popular online video "Dramatic Chipmunk" may be considered fair use because they recombine existing work to create new meaning.

"This video lets people know about the code, an essential creative tool, in the natural language of online video. The code protects this emerging zone from censorship and self-censorship," said Aufderheide, director of the Center for Social Media and a professor in AU’s School of Communication. "Creators, online video providers, and copyright holders will be able to know when copying is stealing and when it’s legal."

Remix Culture: Fair Use Is Your Friend is a collaborative project of the Center for Social Media—a center of AU’s School of Communication—and the Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property—a program of AU’s Washington College of Law—along with Stanford Law School’s Fair Use Project. It was funded by Google.