Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA)

I finally got my copy of Victor Sjostrom's "Terje Vigen" in the mail, and have been preparing to upload some clips to youtube to demonstrate Sjostrom's use of landscape. However, I've run into some ethical/legal issues that I simply don't have the answers to. Basically, I can't tell if it is legal to copy clips from the DVD to upload to youtube. I've done a fair amount of research, but haven't been able to find a definitive answer yet.

Here are some of the things I've been able to determine, some being confounding factors:

1. "Terje Vigen" was "published" before 1923, and so would appear to be in the public domain, and fair to copy and use clips of. However, the DVD version that I have obtained indicates that it was created using a version discovered and restored in 2004, at which time a new soundtrack was also added. On the DVD case, it indicates: "Copyright" in 2008 to Kino INternational Corp.

2. In general, it appears to be illegal to bypass any copy-protection program (DRM)included in any electronic medium. Most recent media should have these features. Mine probably does. There is an exception: "Audiovisual works included in the educational library of a college or university’s film or media studies department, when circumvention is accomplished for the purpose of making compilations of portions of those works for educational use in the classroom by media studies or film professors. (A new exemption in 2006.)" But does this apply to me?

3. As far as uploading works that someone else has the rights to, youtube says "don't do it." Since it is not a legal service, youtube does not explain what the legal ramifications are, only that it may remove the video or terminate your account. But is it okay to upload something and keep it up if nobody ever contacts you to take it down? Youtube's policies basically make it clear that the copyright holder must contact them to remove content, and that a suit is possible. But if you take it down when asked, is the suit probable? And have you done something wrong?

4. Youtube does indicate that there are "fair use" possibilities even for copyrighted material, but can't say what those are. At the government site they link, it says "fair use" could include: "the reproduction of a particular work may be considered fair, such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research." It sets four general guidelines for determining this fair use, but I can't tell where using something like a 5-minute clip falls in there. In fact, the government site indicates that "The distinction between fair use and infringement may be unclear and not easily defined." It does indicate moments when a student might use copyrighted material. Is this one of them? And would I need to take the video down when the course was over?

5. It is possible that the youtube video of Lawrence of Arabia that I uploaded was not posted on youtube legally/appropriately. Is it okay for me to link to it? What about other videos with similar questionabless?

If you have any helpful advice, please weigh in. This is probably important info for all of us as we consider fair use with new media and new technology. I got the image from freefoto.com.


  1. Neal! I have three suggestions for you:
    1. Take your digital camera or video recorder, play the movie on your TV/computer, record it with your camera/recorder, upload THAT version (which you have full rights to) onto youtube and state that your purpose is for classroom use only. Take it down after the class and it's all good! I've seen this done before and it worked.
    2. Ask Prof. Burton to download it and use it for his classroom purposes (though yours and his are one and the same).
    3. Have a class pizza party at your house watching the movie!

  2. Becca,

    That's a good idea in number 1; do you have any source or link that indicates that kind of recording is okay? I understand it's probably the difference between an analog recording that degrades the original, and a digital copy that is identical, but haven't been able to find a site that indicates its legitimacy. Plus, once I record it on my digital video camera, it won't degrade (especially if I then download it to my computer to have a digital version) - it's just an inferior copy. older VHS copies of movies will actually degrade with time, and I think that's why they were acceptable.

  3. For instance, people are jailed for filming in theatres with their own video cameras:


    How is that different?

  4. I was in a techonology and teaching class last semester that covered these exact questions. Based on my understanding, since your aim is to share clips in a learning environment (ie, for instruction) you are allowed to show 10% (or 3 minutes) of copyrighted material. My professor Rick West has a great website for the class which includes facts and questions, as well as instructional videos, regarding the use of copyright material. If you would like to read more, his website is very informative.