Study: Students Don't Understand Copyright Rules


The majority of students (87%) who upload copyrighted material to user-generated video sites likeYouTube, Facebook or MySpace don't get permission from copyright owners, even though most (74%) believe it is fair to pay people for their use.

That's according to a new, albeit limited,  study of college students who upload video to Web sites conducted by a pair of professors at American University and the Washington College of Law.

AU School of Communications Professor Patricia Aufderheide and Washington College of Law's Peter Jaszi polled 51 graduate and undergraduate students who upload videos and held more extensive interviews with 15 of them.

The study concluded that students were, "universally underinformed and misinformed about the law."  While 76% of the students said that the Fair Use doctrine allowed them to use copyrighted material, none could accurately define the doctrine.  While they were generally concerned with staying on the "good side" of the law, they were "making up rules themselves" about what and how to use intellectual property. They also did not understand their own rights as creators of content.

One student said that uploading network programming was fair use because she was "merely showing others in a virtual 'water cooler' environment what she was talking about and had found interesting."

Another student thought that putting "all rights reserved" on a copyrighted clip protected him. Most students who participated believed their videos provided a  valuable service by giving the copyrighted works "free advertising."

The study is meant to be a discussion-prompter for a "confidential" meeting of user-generated content companies on April 10-11. The issue of copyright control and content management have become increasingly important issues as major media companies begin to team up with user-generated sites to reach that audience.

On Monday, for example, reality TV powerhouse Endemol struck its first deal to produce content for user-generated site ().

Companies scheduled to be represented at the primarily closed-door discussions include Facebook, iTunes, Discovery, NBC, Sundance, News Corp, Verizon, Microsoft, Netflix, and NPR.