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Anita Sarkeesian's Feminist Frequency

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A collection of clips from Anita Sarkeesian's blog Feminist Frequency analyzing the gender politics of commercial television

Feminist cultural critic Anita Sarkeesian produces an ongoing series of video commentaries from a feminist/fangirl perspective at FeministFrequency.com. This collection of video clips and commentaries analyze the gender politics of TV shows ranging from Roseanne, to Gossip Girl, Veronica Mars, Fringe, Glee and Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles.

Image sound relations from Jeremy Butler

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A series of image-sound experiments using an old Dodge commercial and various sound tracks

This series of clips presents a Do-it-Yourself Sound Exercise from Jeremy Butler's book Television: Critical Methods and Applications. A 2-minute, public-domain TV commercial (circa 1960) is combined with various music clips to demonstrate the impact sound has on image. Students are encouraged to provide their own music to see how the image can be manipulated.

Center for Social Media releases Code of Best Practices for Research Libraries

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The Center for Social Media releases a new fair use guide for research librarians

The Center for Social Media has released a new Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Academic and Research Libraries. This new code, which joins the suite of other fair use codes, was developed by librarians and facilitated by the Center for Social Media, the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) and The Washington College of Law. It was supported by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The code is a clear and easy-to-use statement of fair and reasonable approaches to fair use developed by and for librarians who support academic inquiry and higher education.

The Code  deals with such common questions in higher education as:

• When and how much copyrighted material can be digitized for student use?
• Should video be treated the same way as print?
• How can libraries’ special collections be made available online?
• Can libraries archive websites for the use of future students and scholars?

It also identifies the relevance of fair use in eight recurrent situations for librarians:
• Supporting teaching and learning with access to library materials via digital technologies
• Using selections from collection materials to publicize a library’s activities, or to create physical and virtual exhibitions
• Digitizing to preserve at-risk items
• Creating digital collections of archival and special collections materials
• Reproducing material for use by disabled students, faculty, staff, and other appropriate users
• Maintaining the integrity of works deposited in institutional repositories
• Creating databases to facilitate non-consumptive research uses (including search)
• Collecting material posted on the web and making it available

Center for Social Media releases Code of Best Practices for Research Libraries

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A new guide to fair use best practices for research librarians

The Center for Social Media has released a new Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Academic and Research Libraries. This new code, which joins the suite of other fair use codes, was developed by librarians and facilitated by the Center for Social Media, the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) and The Washington College of Law. It was supported by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The code is a clear and easy-to-use statement of fair and reasonable approaches to fair use developed by and for librarians who support academic inquiry and higher education.

The Code  deals with such common questions in higher education as:
When and how much copyrighted material can be digitized for student use? And should video be treated the same way as print?
How can libraries’ special collections be made available online?
Can libraries archive websites for the use of future students and scholars?

It identifies the relevance of fair use in eight recurrent situations for librarians:
Supporting teaching and learning with access to library materials via digital technologies
Using selections from collection materials to publicize a library’s activities, or to create physical and virtual exhibitions
Digitizing to preserve at-risk items
Creating digital collections of archival and special collections materials
Reproducing material for use by disabled students, faculty, staff, and other appropriate users
Maintaining the integrity of works deposited in institutional repositories
Creating databases to facilitate non-consumptive research uses (including search)
Collecting material posted on the web and making it available

Critical Commons 2.0 is live!

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Critical Commons relaunches with all new code, servers and added functionality

Thanks to the extraordinary efforts of our project manager Anna Helme, Creative Director Erik Loyer and site developers, the Greek software collective and Plumi Jedi, UnWeb.me, Critical Commons 2.0 is now live! Although this release sees the demise of our infrequently used mobile site and audio commentary feature, it adds significant improvements to the overall functionality and stability of the site. Most exciting is the addition of still images and audio files to the media types that Critical Commons supports. You will also find it much easier to add commentaries to clips and to share media and commentaries with your social networks.

Critical Commons on Inside Higher Ed

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Steve's talk on fair use is picked up by Inside Higher Ed

Pulse logo

Steve's talk on fair use for Educause Live! last month was picked up by Rodney Murray for his monthly podcast at Inside Higher Ed, "The Pulse." Murray nicely excerpted and highlighted parts of the talk pertaining to obstacles and solutions for educators using copyrighted media (even though he left out the more self-serving parts of the presentation that focused on Critical Commons as an alternative to proprietary learning management systems!). So if you only have 20 minutes to spend thinking about fair use instead of 60, you can get the audio from Inside Higher Ed while exploring the contents of Critical Commons.

Critical Commons on Educause Live!

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Steve's web broadcast to Educause Live! on Critical Commons and the Future of Fair Use

Educause Live

The webcast recording of Steve's presentation to Educause Live! on February 25, 2011 just went online. Although the title of the talk, "The Future of Fair Use" may have been a bit oversold, it was an amazing opportunity to speak on behalf of fair use to hundreds of higher ed professionals nationwide. For those who don't have an hour to spare, the basic message is that non-specialists (educators, librarians, media makers) can and should contribute directly to the shaping of an assertive, ethical future for fair use. Citing the groundbreaking work done by the Center for Social Media's best practices guides, the presentation also highlights Critical Commons as a case study of a fair use-enabled platform for promoting digital scholarship, teaching and research. The presentation sparked a lively discussion among the Educause community and a huge spike in traffic to Critical Commons. Thanks to Steve Worona of Educause for giving us this opportunity!

Fair Use and Short Form Media

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What happens when it's necessary to post an entire short-form work such as an ad or music video for the purposes of commentary or critique?

Questions sometimes arise about the fairness of a given use on Critical Commons. Although we cannot give specific advice (and we are unqualified to give legal advice of any kind!), it is worth thinking through some of these questions in light of this site's desire to inform and empower individuals to make their own determinations about fair use. For example, a user recently asked whether the uploading of a complete short-form work might not run afoul of fair use.

The first stop, when thinking through any question of fair use is to consult the Center for Social Media's excellent series of Best Practices in Fair Use Guides, one of which is specifically devoted to online video. In this guide, titled Recut, Reframe, Recycle, we find the following discussion of complete works that are posted for purposes of eliciting discussion:

"So creators who copy work occasionally to start discussion still may be able to claim that their use is transformative, and therefore fair. To do so effectively, they need a reason why it is important to post the work in question as a whole, rather than just a quotation from it." (11)

According to the standard logic of the four-factors test, posting a complete work weakens a fair use claim, relative to posting only a fragment (Factor #3). This comes up often with short-form works such as ads and music videos, both of which are frequently and productively posted on Critical Commons.

It is arguably true that fair use is deliberately elastic in order to accommodate exactly these cases. The core rhetoric among proponents of fair use is that there is no categorical problem with complete works if using the entire work is necessary for your argument. This is a judgment call, which places a greater responsibility on the poster, but it is arguably still vastly preferable to the kinds of guidelines issued in the past by CONFU and others that are based on arbitrary time limits or percentages. The rule of thumb these days says to use as much of a given work as is necessary, but avoid using more if it doesn't help your argument, which seems like pedagogically sound advice as much as fair use advice.

The other thing that weighs in favor of fair use with regard to ads and music videos is that the original purpose of these works is promotional in nature, thus there is little or no "market value of the original work" to damage (Factor #4).

But really the key issue here is Factor #1, which places this and most of the work done by users of Critical Commons on very solid ground that is close to the heart of fair use. If a use is non-profit, educational, value-adding, culturally enriching, and significantly transformative through the juxtaposition of the clip and commentary, this weighs heavily in favor of a use being regarded as "fair" even if it requires the posting of an entire short work. All of that said, please remember that the decision to post or not post a work under the protections of fair use lies entirely with the users of this site and we encourage you to approach this responsibility seriously.

Of Memes and Media Takedowns

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Reflections on automated takedowns, fair use and the Hitler meme

hitlerFairUse
As a recent contributor to the "Hitler meme" genre of detourned video parodies of the movie Downfall, I was inspired by the recent Rocketboom video with Kenyatta Cheese, describing the steps to challenge a YouTube takedown. Rocketboom, in turn, was motivated by the recent wave of takedowns ordered by Downfall producers, Constantin Films, which resulted in the removal of hundreds of Downfall parodies, mine included. Critical Commons' contribution to the Hitler meme Digital Humanities and the Case for Critical Commons was created to publicize the relaunch of this site and its promotion of fair use of media by educators. I was contacted by Alison Hanold of the Center for Social Media at American University, who was writing an article about YouTube's takedowns of the Hitler videos and she generously included my my thoughts about the Downfall takedowns:

I found the latest round of Downfall takedowns to be unfortunate and poorly timed on the part of Constantin Films, which is now being subjected to disproportionate resentment and vilification. I’m not saying they shouldn’t be criticized, but there are many other much worse offenders among the copyright industries’ takedown trolls and it’s toward them that our real outrage should be directed. The shock-and-awe strategies that have been favored by members of the MPAA and RIAA for the past decade have had an impact on some people’s behavior and it has instilled fear and paranoia in many others. But, like military shock-and-awe campaigns, it’s short-sighted and ultimately counter-productive. The longer-term impact of such mass takedowns is organized resistance and legal efforts that will ultimately have a greater cost to the media industries than a mere public relations nightmare. Creators, students, educators, vidders (etc.) have unprecedented resources and support at their disposal in the form of the CSM’s Best Practices guides and a growing body of court decisions supporting fair use. Indiscriminate takedowns that ignore the legitimate protections of fair use are just as illegal as commercial piracy and it’s time for the industries to start being held accountable for their actions.

In retrospect, I think the real issue here is not the actions of Constantin Films, a relatively small player who has been swept into the current copyright wars, but the resulting wave of awareness about YouTube's use of automated takedown systems, including ContentID, which was used by Constantin to order the Downfall takedowns. Of course, none of this is intelligible outside the context of the current Viacom v. YouTube litigation, which could significantly undermine current interpretations of the DMCA safe harbor clause that made YouTube a billion-dollar company and made online video a key part of the cultural vernacular for millions of creators. While automated takedowns and "fingerprinting" systems that sniff for copyrighted content while a file is being uploaded may have once seemed like the silver bullet to fight unauthorized uses of copyrighted materials, such systems are incapable of making nuanced determinations about the fairness of a given use. It will be no small irony if these automated measures, intended to deter and intimidate even legitimate users, turns out to be the "downfall" of the copyright industries' last-ditch efforts to hold onto a fading business model.

H5's Logorama: Best Animated Trademark Dilution

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H5's amazing Logorama has won the Oscar for Best Animated Short film in spite of appropriating hundreds of trademarked logos

logoramaOpen
The French design firm H5 has been responsible for some of the most remarkable graphics-oriented music videos and short films of the past decade and their Logorama, which won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film is no exception. In order to be eligible for the Oscar, Logorama screened briefly in Los Angeles last December as part of the Flux festival and I read about it for the first time on Holly Willis' Blur+Sharpen blog on KCET. Since fair use does not apply to trademark appropriation, it was hard to imagine how H5 got away with trashing literally hundreds of icons of Euro-American consumer culture. The answer lies in trademark law's relatively narrow concern with brand identification and prevention of confusion among consumers. Ironically, the very audacity of H5's appropriation would seem to ensure that no reasonable consumer could believe that Logorama's profane, hyperviolent Ronald McDonald was associated in any way with the McDonald's corporation. Sadly, both H5's website and the Logorama site include only the opening sequence of the film (less than two minutes of the complete 16 minute short), accompanied by a perky, nostalgic Dean Martin crooning "Good Morning Life" which belies the shooting, earthquakes and general destruction that ensue.