Renee Hobbs on media education and copyright

/ 17 January 2009

Henry Jenkins has a great interview with Renee Hobbs about media education and copyright issues. The whole interview is important reading, but I’ll single out this quote in particular:

Many teachers receive misinformation informally from colleagues and supervisors. At some educational institutions, school policies are far more restrictive than the law mandates. Some teachers have tried to distribute their curriculum materials, but found publishers unreceptive due to copyright concerns because media literacy lessons inevitably quote from films, TV shows, advertising, popular culture, and online media. One big problem is the widespread misunderstanding of the so-called "educational use guidelines," those negotiated agreements between media companies and some educational groups which present a list of hard-and-fast rules defining fair use. These guidelines are not the law. They do not define either the "safe harbors" or the "outer limits" of fair use. Relying on these guidelines actually hurts educators. Some legal scholars fear that if the educational community accepts these "educational use guidelines" in policy statements or in settling litigation, the concept of fair use will be weakened and narrowed, not strengthened. Columbia University legal scholar Kenneth Crews points out, "When the community actually use the guidelines and adhere to them, they are reshaping the normative understanding of the law," sacrificing the flexible nature of the doctrine of fair use.

Far too many church educators feel constrained by what they fear are the limits of use imposed by copyright law. I can't tell you the number of times I've heard people advise church educators that they should NOT use media clips unless they have a specific license to do so.

Religious educators need to be engaging the culture we live in, and that culture is pervaded by media texts -- let's use them, let's reflect theologically with them, let's educate!