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Copyright and Fair Use

This week’s Using the Social Web for Social Change class at BGI had my classmates and I digging into legal stuff concerning: copyright, patents, trademarks and fair use.

Many of my classmates are working on videos for their social change projects. If you, like those in my class are interested in creating in this medium it is essential that you take a few hours and familiarize yourself with the terminology and legal constraints associated with producing and distributing video. First off, start with these three concise and readable posts:

IP & Copyright, Copyleft & Trademark, and Patents, Trade Secrets & Licenses

Next you want to get a handle on “Fair Use”. Check out Fair Use & Copyright by the Center for Social Media. In a nutshell, “Fair Use” lets you, as a creator of video use bits and pieces of others’ copyrighted works without permission if your work follows several best practices:

  • One: Employing copyrighted material as the object of social, political, or cultural critique
  • Two: Quoting copyrighted works of popular culture to illustrate an argument or point
  • Three: Capturing copyrighted media content in the process of filming something else
  • Four: Using copyrighted material in a historical sequence

There is some fine print for the above situations. I recommend reading the very concise: Best Practices in Fair Use Guide, Recut Reframe Recycle and visit the Center for Social Media for more info.

Happy filmmaking!

Finally Getting into Video

I bought a video camera off of a guy whom I met via criagslist.org last year with intent to start sharing my adventures with a larger audience. I hope to utilize the user-generated, on-demand video services available to add energy to realizing a just and regenerative civilization. No minor undertaking! Like most of my new ambitions, there has been a lag time of about a year between the original idea and when I actually got down to it. This particular endeavor got a boost from my Using the Social Web for Social Change class at BGI. To get our feet wet, we each had to produce a short video introducing ourselves and blog to the world. Here is take 1 and rolling…

iMovie made it waaaay simple to actually pull this off. It was about a 5-hour endeavor with quite a bit of fumbling and trial and error to get the timing of the clips, transitions and text to flow well. iMovie’s feature set is a bit limited but this also makes it pretty painless to jump into. It integrates with iPhoto and iTunes so it is really easy to pull in media from those channels. Fortunately, I had shot some video this past summer so I had something to work with. Most of my finished product is actually not video because I didn’t have that much usable footage. This forced me to figure out how to use stills, transitions, text overlays and background audio – pretty much all the features iMovie had to offer. I pinched the audio clip from a live Ravi Shankar recording that I love. It’s copy written material but I think the way I have used it counts for “Fair Use“. This means I will probably not run into problems with YouTube and their Terms of Use police. The specific legal jargon relevant in this scenario is that my work could be considered: transformative. The relevant part being:

Repurposing a work to aid identification of the base work is also generally transformative.

I gave credit to Ravi Shankar at the end so I think I am essentially aiding the identification of his base work with the use of his audio. Hopefully YouTube is cool with this. We’ll see.

Feedback and comments are welcome!