The 2015 College Media Association convention was a whirlwind. So much to learn, so much technology to keep up with, and so many issues that hardly existed before the digital revolution.
Take copyright law, for example. Not that it didn’t exist before. But Google Images, among other things has resulted in all kinds of traps that student media need to avoid. The Student Press Law Center’s Frank LoMonte, a walking-talking media law library, as always, spelled out what we need to know to stay out of trouble.
Rules of Fair Use:
1) Assume everything online is someone else’s property. Most of the time, you shouldn’t publish a photo from Google Images, Facebook, Instagram, etc. unless you have permission. Including “courtesy of” in your caption does not grant you permission. In fact, it’s worse than doing nothing. An item is copyrighted as soon as it is created. There doesn’t have to be a filing.
2)Sometimes it is OK to “borrow” copyrighted work. These exceptions include when you are using it for
- review, critique or commentary (ie: a movie image for a review of that movie)
- writing about the work itself as a newsworthy item
3) Four-prong test for what is Fair Use:
Who are you? (educational organization or non-profit has a better shot at fair use than a for-profit company)
How much did you re-use it? (Less is better than more.)
For what purpose? (Not-for-profit is bette.r)
What effect did your use have on the original? (Did you undermine the market for the original?)
The key word is substitute; Is your work a substitute for the original?
4) Some items don’t require permission. These include U.S. government property (ie: photos on the official White House website) and material from Creative Commons, Wikimedia Commons, sources like that.
One footnote: If you are writing about a company, it is considered fair use to use the company’s logo.
The Apple Awards
I attended my first CMA convention in New York five years ago. At the Apple Awards ceremony, I remember thinking they were the coolest trophies I’d ever seen. I hoped The Beacon would win one someday.
The last day of this convention, in the Metropolitan Ballroom, it happened. They called out “The Beacon, University of Portland” as Best Newspaper from a four-year university with fewer than 5000 students. What a thrill for all of us.