Fair Use: Essential for audio & video analysis in the classroom and beyond

This week is Fair Use Week, a global celebration of our right to use in-copyright works for transformative, socially valuable new purposes like scholarship, criticism, and teaching. The UVA Library is celebrating this week by profiling some of the Wahoos who use fair use in their daily work, whether in teaching, research, or their own creativity.

Copyright grants rights holders a limited set of exclusive rights to control the use of their works as an incentive for creativity, but it also grants the public rights to use these works without seeking permission when the use is fair. Fair use is a flexible right that can accommodate a wide variety of activities, so it can adapt to changing technology as well as shifting social and economic circumstances. This balance ensures that copyrights don’t burden the very creative and educational processes they were meant to encourage.

Today we are profiling Sarah O’Brien, Assistant Professor, General Faculty, Writing Program, and Brandon Walsh, Head of Student Programs in the Scholars’ Lab, UVA Library.

Sarah O’Brien

Sarah O’Brien’s specialties include academic writing, film & television studies, and animal studies. On fair use, she says:

In teaching writing courses focused on film and television, I use an intertextual approach that encourages students to understand that citation can be much more than a strategy for adorning their prose or fortifying their arguments; it can be a way—the way, even—to generate ideas and share them in sustained conversation with other writers and creators. Fair Use is essential to all the kinds of writing that students do in my classes, from crafting analyses of advertisements for tv sets to composing shot-by-shot annotations of filmic moments to creating audiovisual essays that remix classical and contemporary movies. Fair Use allows for the educational use of copyright media that these projects demand; more importantly, it encourages student writers to think carefully about how they are commenting on, adding to, and/or transforming that media’s meanings.

Brandon Walsh

Brandon Walsh’s research focuses on modern and contemporary fiction. He remarks:

My dissertation was on sound recordings and modernist literature, which meant that I was citing a lot of sound artifacts in my writing. I wanted to cite sound clips and allow the reader to actually listen to them. Rather than just describing the way Langston Hughes read his poetry with Charles Mingus’s band, I wanted the reader to be able to hear it for themselves. Fair use allowed me to archive pieces of these sound recordings in our library repository along with my project so that readers could hear my argument as I intended it.

If you have questions about fair use, the Library can help both with access to materials for your fair use projects and with information about how your fair use rights might help your project move past copyright hurdles. For more information, check out https://copyright.library.virginia.edu/.

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