Online-Video Best-Practices Code to Debut Monday

American University's Center for Social Media prepares code of best practices for fair use of online video.
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American University's Center for Social Media came up with a code of best practices for fair use of online video that it is unveiling Monday.

There continues to be tension between studios and fair-use advocates over what constitutes fair use of copyrighted works -- an issue that has grown with the explosion of places to post video online and the ease with which that video can be produced or copied.

The code was put together by AU professors Pat Aufderheide and Peter Jaszi and a panel of experts, and it spells out numerous, broad fair-use rights. "We think it will help creators in this exciting new realm to get and stay legal," Aufderheide said, "and will also help copyright-holders understand when it's actually fair to use their material without paying for it."

For example, it defends the copying, reposting and recirculating of a portion of a work or an entire work because the "online-video contributors … love or hate it" and want to spur an online discussion. That would appear to potentially cover virtually anything on YouTube, where posts almost always spur a string of comments on the merits of the post, so long as the poster indicates that he loves or hates it and wants others to see it and weigh in themselves.

The guidelines said, "When content that originally was offered to entertain or inform or instruct is offered up with the distinct purpose of launching an online conversation, its use has been transformed," and such use of copyrighted work is "at the heart of freedom of expression."

While the code said "the mere fact" that a site permits discussion is not enough to indicate the intent of spurring discussion, it does suggest that just picking the right name for the clip might be enough. "The poster might title a work appropriately so that it encourages comment or provide context or a spur to discussion with an initial comment on a site, or seek out a site that encourages commentary," the guidelines added.

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