Greeks Bearing Gifts
The words "educational purposes" seem to be getting a new meaning at the industry-funded Copyright Alliance. Posing as a social marketing group aimed to prevent an abuse of basic human rights, the group is running ads with mournful performers and tag lines like this one: "It seems almost every day some special interest group calls for weaker protection of
copyrights—which threatens her livelihood and much, much more." Of course the lobbying of the MPAA and RIAA against the interests of educators is certainly supported by many special interests contrary to the general public's desire to reuse and remix content for creative, educational, and critical purposes.
Particularly laughable is the claim that independent documentary filmmakers, who currently shell out huge fees for each pop song accidentally playing in the background or splice of a news clip that's necessary for story-telling, are big supporters of the effort. The Documentary Filmmakers' Statement at the Center for Social Media seems to be making a very different argument. (For those who don't like big words and legalese, there's also a Disney version on YouTube.)
As an educator who frequently explains particular aspects of a historical period, philosophical position, or cultural aesthetic with a clip from a movie, what I find most repulsive is the fact, reported in "Copyright Alliance Proposes Wiki to Help Professors Get Permissions for Classroom Use" in The Chronicle of Higher Education, that this group wants to create a false sense that there are only a limited number of listed permission-granted films that they would be in charge of listing. Not-for-profit live screenings used directly in the context of teaching such as mine are currently protected by case law involving fair use. Siva Vaidhyanathan has called the bid to roll back precedent under the guise of a user-generated content interface "outrageous."
The group also hosted a one-sided pseudo-academic "symposium, according to Inside Higher Ed.
For a site that claims to put a premium on originality, I thought it was funny to see how much of the content on the site is recycled from others, from the trite "Lesson Plans" from other anti-file-sharing and anti-downloading campaigns to the predictable party line statements in "Documents and Research." I think the latter would only appeal to a student too lazy to go to a paper mill to get some stock "con" position papers on fair use.