Center for Social Media

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Fair Use and Libraries

Wed, 04/07/2010 - 13:32
The Center’s Pat Aufderheide is co-principal investigator on a three-year research project funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The project will investigate the problems that research and academic libraries and librarians have in meeting their mission, given prevalent concerns and confusions about copyright and fair use. It will, on the basis of that knowledge, develop a code of best practices in fair use for research libraries. This project builds upon the success of earlier codes of best practices in fair use, which have expanded awareness of fair use and made it easier for communities of practice to do their work. The project, coordinated by the Association of Research Libraries, also involves the Washington College of Law. Prof. Peter Jaszi,…

Communication Scholarship Hobbled by Copyright Confusion

Thu, 04/01/2010 - 14:11
With the International Communication Association, the Center is releasing today Clipping Our Own Wings: Copyright and Creativity in Communication Research, a 17 page report on the problems communication scholars have with copyright policy. The report shows that communication scholars regularly need to use copyrighted material, but don’t know their rights under the law. For instance: one communication scholar wants to analyze popular sitcoms, but decides not to because she doesn’t know if she can record and store them legally. Another wants to include images of the advertisements his book critiques, but the publisher insists on his getting permissions for all of them; when he tries to get permissions, the scholar can’t even get an answer to his queries. Yet another…

Fair Use Question of the Month: Using Copyrighted Material to Illustrate Historical Moments

Tue, 03/30/2010 - 15:11
QUESTION: Dear Center for Social Media, We are working on a documentary series on opera, and why the supply of great singers seems to be drying up. We're conceiving that the series would be similar to the documentary Ballet Russes, with interviews with the singers and footage from their careers. We in the arts feel that raising standards and keeping alive the arts is important, and we feel it has socially redeeming value. We'd like to be able to include illustrations (videos mostly) from the careers of these singers, but is the fair use doctrine too narrowly conceived to include our use of quotes from old TV shows, for example, the Ed Sullivan Show, to illustrate the work of the…

Judith Helfand at SOC

Mon, 03/29/2010 - 19:36
Filmmaker Judith Helfand was in DC last week to screen her film Cooked with the Environmental Film Festival, and while she was here she joined us at the CSM for the day to lead a master class. The class focused on the distinction between outreach and engagement. She also led an evening session detailing the submission process for Chicken and Egg Pictures, and encouraged all novice documentary filmmakers to make their personal connection to their story very clear in their proposals. Video from the master class will be made available on our website soon. Judith Helfand Filmmaker, activist and educator she’s best known for her ability to take the dark, cynical worlds of chemical exposure, heedless corporate behavior, environmental injustice…

Public Media 2.0 Local Journalism Style

Fri, 03/26/2010 - 14:19
The Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which manages the federal money (about 15%) in public broadcasting, has diligently been trying to drag public broadcasters into the 21st century for a while. Inside that building, they know that the most important thing pubcasters can do now is to leave their buildings, and build community relationships for a stronger public culture. The latest CPB initiative, Local Journalism Centers (or LJCs, like pubcasters need any more acronyms), was showcased yesterday at the Newseum—watch the whole podcast if you really can’t think of something else to do. Me, I loved every minute. It sounded to my absolutely unbiased ears like one long lovefest for the Public Media 2.0: Dynamic, Engaged Publics white paper Jessica Clark…

A Look at Cory Booker, the Social Media Mayor

Tue, 03/23/2010 - 18:05
How are politicians using social media platforms not only to glean votes and support, but to communicate with voters about what it takes to govern? Earlier this month, Newark, New Jersey’s Mayor Cory Booker’s twitter blog took home the “Shorty Award” in the government category. Booker is no stranger to media attention. Originally elected to Newark City Council in 1998 at age 29, Booker made his presence felt both in Newark and the media immediately. Writing in Esquire magazine in 2008, Scott Raab recalls some of "Booker's Heroics"—his earliest attention-grabbing moments, such as: "pitching a tent to conduct a ten-day fast in 1999 to shame [then Mayor] Sharpe James into providing more police and better city services to his ward,”…

Havana-Miami:  Video diaries across borders and platforms

Mon, 03/22/2010 - 20:21
In 1997 I interviewed documentary filmmaker Ilan Ziv – a pioneer in video storytelling in projects like On the Edge of Peace (1995), an Israeli-Palestinian coproduction in which three Palestinians and three Israelis were given cameras to record their experiences during a hopeful period or peace negotiations. Ziv was a powerful advocate for small-format reports on “ordinary lives shaped by political circumstances,” producing video diaries in many parts of the world. When I spoke with him, they were being broadcast by BBC2, Channel 4 (UK), Ikon TV (Holland), but US television wasn’t interested. Back then, Ziv saw hope in digital technologies, saying, “We need to create our ‘television’ … make sure there’s a little corner reserved for the people… and…

Ellen Goodman’s report on the FCC’s Broadband Plan

Fri, 03/19/2010 - 14:17
We're proud to bring you the first report from Center for Social Media Fellow Ellen Goodman, who is Professor at Rutgers School of Law and Distinguished Visiting Scholar at the FCC working part time on the FCC's Future of Media Project: This week, the FCC released its epic National Broadband Plan. The Plan largely deals with telecommunications infrastructure issues – how can we get more ubiquitous and faster broadband. Although the Plan is very focused on the bottom line of how ubiquitous broadband can support social and democratic flourishing, it actually only addresses the content of broadband communications in a couple of places. What the Plan calls “public media” is at the center of its content discussion. Before going on,…

Fair Use at SXSW

Thu, 03/18/2010 - 19:37
When The People vs. George Lucas' Kerry Roy mentioned the Documentary Filmmakers’ Statement of Best Practices in Fair Use from the stage, I whooped. I couldn’t help it—it was the first time I’d heard the statement acknowledged in that setting. But Roy wasn’t the only filmmaker who told me that the Statement was an essential tool of production these days; it was a routine mention in my hallway conversations with filmmakers. And I participated in two panels where that fact was also boldly showcased. In Remix Goes Mainstream: Making Mashups Pay lawyer Michael Donaldson noted that his firm now works on hundreds of fair uses each week, and that recent festival favorites such as Bhutto and GasLand heavily depended on…

Got Popcorn? Film Distribution Insights at SXSW

Thu, 03/18/2010 - 18:48
Public media mavens closely watch general business trends, if they want to seize opportunities. So at SXSW I was scouting for shifts in distribution. How does the Internet change film distribution? Not all that much, yet, although it can really change marketing, was the upshot of what seemed like every other panel at SXSW—both on the film and interactive sides. Consensus was that old-fashioned mass media is still what pays the bills; in that environment, the big news is how much people will pay for Video on Demand (movie-ticket prices). In a well-staged slapdown, billionaire HDNet CEO (and Texan) Mark Cuban told Boxee’s Avner Ronen that he would be glad to put HDNet content online as soon as someone would…

Documentaries at SXSW

Thu, 03/18/2010 - 18:39
South by Southwest Film Festival, in Austin, TX, has become a rich environment for documentaries, under the aegis of Janet Pierson (and if you don’t know this extraordinary champion of indie film, check out her interview on the POV blog). Even selecting for social-issue, human rights and cultural criticism (my stock categories), there was way too much to see. What I saw, by and large, I was happy to have seen—and no, I’m not sharing with you what I didn’t like. Life is too short. The good news started with Steve James’ No Crossover: The Trial of Allen Iverson. (Fair warning: I’m on the board of directors for Kartemquin, James’ production house.) The film explores how and why a high…

Environmental Film Festival at AU

Thu, 03/18/2010 - 14:33
D.C.'s 2010 Environmental Film Festival is under way! Along with the Center for Environmental Filmmaking, we're sponsoring a whole week of films at American University's Wechsler Theater. You can view the schedule here. We're particularly excited to see the premiere of AU Professor Larry Engel's new film, Potato Heads. In Potato Heads, Engel visits with farmers and scientists in the Andes of South America, the homeland of the potato; and the heartland of the United States, where this lowly tuber thrives today. Along the way, Engel also takes a close hard look at the importance of biodiversity and food security in an ever-threatened world. Potato Heads will premiere on Monday, March 22 at 7 p.m. in the Wechsler Theater Also,…

New Muslim Cool Completes Future of Public Media Project’s Field Report Series

Mon, 03/15/2010 - 15:56
We are pleased to release the final report in our field report series, New Muslim Cool: Engaging Stakeholders throughout the Filmmaking Process. Published as part of the Future of Public Media project, these field reports explore how publics form around participatory and multiplatform media projects. New Muslim Cool is the last field report in a series of six conducted between 2007 and 2009. In it, CSM Research Fellow Nina Keim analyzes how the feature-length documentary film New Muslim Cool engaged stakeholders in the filmmaking process, resulting in a film that inspires young American Muslims, promotes an interfaith dialogue and helps users overcome prejudices about the Muslim youth community in the United States. Here is an overview of the complete series:…

UCLA Does the Right Thing by Fair Use

Wed, 03/03/2010 - 18:50
UCLA, which in January yanked down videos being streamed for classroom use as a result of bullying by a trade association has rediscovered that educators have fair use rights. Now, UCLA professors can post videos again within their passworded class sites online. In a UCLA press release, Christine Borgman, chair of the Information Technology Planning Board and UCLA Presidential Professor of Information Studies, said, "The UCLA faculty and administration quickly reached consensus on both the need to restore these essential instructional services and to assert our rights to use intellectual property within the bounds of existing copyright laws.” While UCLA pointed to special educational exemptions, it rested its argument on fair use. The press release also noted that UCLA plays…

Stupid Takedown Tricks

Wed, 03/03/2010 - 15:01
Remix videos, mashups, memorials, fan videos and other works that build in copyrighted material sometimes get taken down from YouTube and other video sites, because automatic bot programs identify copyrighted material. And then stupidity ensues. All the audio in Larry Lessig’s February speech to the Open Video Alliance was recently taken down because Warner Music Group identified some copyrighted material in clips of remixes that he used, to demonstrate the vitality of emergent participatory culture. (You can still watch it on Blip TV, though.) Journalists and the Electronic Frontier Foundation cried foul, and Lessig will contest it. And it will go back up. But YouTube needs to build into its service the human touch—an actual person needs to make a…

Loni Ding, Social Documentarian

Fri, 02/26/2010 - 20:08
Loni Ding -- documentary filmmaker, university teacher, and media activist – died on Saturday, February 20, 2010 in Berkeley, California. She exemplified the best in the way social documentarians can expand the public sphere. She did this by working to create public institutions to showcase underrepresented voices in American life, and by creating work that not only raised awareness but encouraged meaningful discussion and debate. Her film work had immediate and long-lasting impact, including influencing Congressional action on redress for Japanese-American internment during World War II. A tireless advocate for social issue documentary, she played a central role in the creation of the National Asian American Telecommunication Association (now Center for Asian American Media), ITVS, and the Association of Independent…

Lessig, Fair Use, and Open Video Alliance

Fri, 02/26/2010 - 19:40
The Open Video Alliance, which pushes for more and better open-source tools to make, edit, showcase and access video, held a dramatic demonstration of the power of open source on Feb. 25. A speech by copyright guru Larry Lessig was beamed via open-source codec Ogg Theora to more than 40 venues around the world. American University was one of them; a group of the copyright-curious gathered to watch the speech, which was only occasionally garbled. Lessig spoke passionately about the vitality of remix, or read-write culture, and the need for “free/fair” copyright policies. He then urged people to work to get corporate money out of Congress, so that better copyright policies could be passed. I was thrilled to see the…

True Tales of Fair Use: The Most Dangerous Man in America

Fri, 02/26/2010 - 18:17
One of the most impressive recent social documentaries, The Most Dangerous Man in America, has been nominated for an Academy Award. It tells the story of Daniel Ellsberg’s decision to release the Pentagon Papers—a story full of important parallels for today. The film is beginning its theatrical release, and we hope to bring it to campus soon. Meanwhile, there’s an excellent interview with directors Judy Ehrlich and Rick Goldsmith in Filmmaker magazine this month, in which Rick references the Center’s work: “We had a very interesting experience with the fair-use issue. I don’t know how much you’re familiar with Pat Aufderheide and that whole movement, to make that more clear and get filmmakers the right to do it legally. We…

Debating the news crisis on GRITtv

Thu, 02/25/2010 - 19:06
Noted independent reporter and commentator Laura Flanders hosts GRITtv, a daily news, arts and culture show aired on cable, satellite and online. She invited me and Tracy Van Slyke, my coauthor for Beyond the Echo Chamber, onto the show yesterday to discuss the transformation of journalism. We tackled a few interesting questions, including whether the recent layoffs in broadcast news will really matter, and why bloggers continue to focus on the Beltway despite a flood of new grassroots content. How can both legacy and independent producers move "beyond pale, male and stale," to inform and empower underserved audiences? Check out the interview to learn more.

Fair Use Question of the Month: The Material I Want to Use Has Unlicensed Footage In It

Tue, 02/23/2010 - 18:20
QUESTION: Dear Center for Social Media, I'm working on a documentary film that makes substantial use of video footage and photographs, all of which was shot by one person (the subject of my film), and all of which I have permission to use. Here's my question: the subject of the film took his video footage and pictures and cut together music videos, and I'm very sure he didn't license the music. I'd like to be able to use some pieces of the music videos in my film, because I feel they are critical to illustrating certain points I'd like to make (namely, about his life as a soldier in Iraq and Afghanistan, and how he was developing as a filmmaker…