Center for Social Media publishes fair use principles

In a valuable attempt to set a professional practices standard among journalists, the Center for Social Media has published its “Set of Principles in Fair Use for Journalists.” The center’s stated goal is to set guidelines by which journalists can “stop censoring their journalistic choices, especially in emerging digital environments.”

Journalists tend to self-censor themselves when confused about applicability of the fair use rule of US copyright law. The fair use rule allows limited use of protected material without permission in the general cases of:

  1. Criticism and comment
  2. News reporting
  3. Research and scholarship
  4. Nonprofit educational uses
  5. Parody

Where the fair use rule gets confusing is in trying to fairly apply the five determining rules:

  1. New creation or duplication
  2. Competition with the source
  3. Attribution isn’t enough
  4. Relative amount matters
  5. Quality as important as quantity

The Set of Principles “reduces risk of copyright infringement by clarifying professional community standards” and identifies seven common fair use situations for journalists:

  1. Incidental capture
  2. Proof
  3. Use in cultural journalism
  4. Illustration
  5. Historical reference
  6. To foster public discussion
  7. Advancing the story
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