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November 24, 2006

Media Studies and Fair Use

Some good news regarding media studies and fair use. According to an AP report, the US copyright office has just announced several new exemptions to copyright law, at least one of which will benefit media and film studies professors. The exemption would allow film and media professors to copy clips from DVDs for educational compilations (an important teaching tool in Intro to Film courses). As the AP article explains it:

The exemption granted to film professors authorizes the breaking of the CSS copy-protection technology found in most DVDs. Programs to do so circulate widely on the Internet, though it has been illegal to use or distribute them.

The professors said they need the ability to create compilations of DVD snippets to teach their classes — for example, taking portions of old and new cartoons to study how animation has evolved. Such compilations are generally permitted under "fair use" provisions of copyright law, but breaking the locks to make the compilations has been illegal.

Hollywood studios have argued that educators could turn to videotapes and other versions without the copy protections, but the professors argued that DVDs are of higher quality and may preserve the original colors or dimensions that videotapes lack.

Other exemptions dealt with computer obsolescence, allowing copy-protection controls to be circumvented for archival purposes for computer prorgams and video games that require obsolete machines. The full list of new exemptions is available at the US Copyright Office website.While I'd like to see Fair Use extend a little more broadly, these changes will certainly benefit scholars and teachers working in film and media studies.

Posted by chuck at November 24, 2006 11:39 AM

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