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College YouTubers in the Dark About Copyright Law

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

AU Study of Internet Videos Finds Students Ignorant of but not Indifferent to Rules

WASHINGTON, DC – College students care about copyright when they upload videos containing others’ copyrighted materials to new online platforms, but they don’t understand their own First Amendment rights or know how to comply with copyright law, according to a new study from American University's Center for Social Media and AU's Washington College of Law.

"This is a vibrant new medium, and its vitality depends on the ability of new makers to draw creatively from the culture they live in," noted the study’s authors, Patricia Aufderheide, professor at AU School of Communications and director of its Center for Social Media, and Peter Jaszi, professor at AU’s Washington College of Law and director of the law school’s Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property. "The fact that college students are so poorly informed—and misinformed—is an alarming sign."

Other results from the study included:

  • Nearly 90 percent of the college students interviewed upload Internet videos containing copyrighted material to user-generated video sites don’t receive permission from copyright owners - but 74 percent of them believe it is fair to pay for the use of such material—even though in many cases they should not have to.
  • More than half of respondents (52 percent) combine their own videography with recorded music; 44 percent put together moving slide shows with photos of family and friends; and 20 percent excerpted material from a TV show or movie.
  • The reasons why students upload Internet videos are driven in part by their desire to create and maintain personal identity through location of themselves in a social network. And part of what fuels their social network is shared experience of popular culture, as exemplified in Internet videos.
  • Nearly 80 percent of respondents (76 percent) said the Fair Use doctrine—which permits use of unauthorized copyrighted material under some circumstances-- allows them to use copyrighted material, but not a single student could accurately define the doctrine.
  • While uploaders of Internet videos want to stay on the "good side" of the law, they are "making up the rules" about what intellectual property to use and how to do it.
  • Most respondents felt their Internet videos provide a valuable service by giving copyrighted works "free advertising.

The AU study--"The Good, the Bad and the Confusing: User Generated Video Creators on Copyright,"-- polled 51 graduate and undergraduate uploaders of Internet videos, with more extensive interviews conducted with 15 of them. Elizabeth Nolan Brown, a graduate student in the School of Communication, conducted the primary research.

About American University’s Center for Social Media

The Center for Social Media--part of AU's School of Communication--showcases and analyzes strategies to use media as creative tools for public knowledge and action. Its Future of Public Media project, which funded this study, is supported by the Ford Foundation. The study is the latest effort from the American University authors, who have worked with documentary filmmakers and media literacy educators to develop a new set of industry-wide best practices for using copyrighted material.

About American University’s Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property

Through research, scholarship, public events, advocacy, and provision of legal and consulting services, WCL’s Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property (PIJIP) promotes public interest approaches in the law governing information protection and dissemination. This study was supported by PIJIP’s Fair Use and Public Media project, which works to explain and promote interpretations of copyright, communications and other laws that protect and facilitate the growth of media that helps the public come into being through the recognition of common social problems.

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