Thursday, April 1, 2010

Study Finds Copyright Concerns Affect Communication Research; Wired Campus, Chronicle of Higher Education, 4/1/10

Jill Laster, Wired Campus, Chronicle of Higher Education; Study Finds Copyright Concerns Affect Communications Research:

"A new survey has found that many communications scholars lack confidence in their knowledge of copyright laws in relation to their research.

On Thursday, American University's Center for Social Media and the International Communication Association released a survey of ICA members titled "Clipping Our Own Wings: Copyright and Creativity in Communication Research." The e-mail survey—to which about 8 percent of ICA members, or 387, responded—found that nearly half of all communications scholars were not confident about their knowledge of copyright laws. The survey also found that nearly a third avoided research subjects or questions because of that lack of knowledge, and a fifth abandoned research that was already under way because of copyright worries.

The report's authors say that the abandoned research is perhaps the most important part of the study because it results in unrealized work and "self censorship" among scholars.

Patricia Aufderheide, director of the Center for Social Media and part of the committee that produced the report, said that in the last two decades "we've seen the erosion of 'fair use'" for different reasons. She cited the growth of the Internet, tightening of copyright rules, and the growth of large media copyright holders, among other things.

"There's a lot of pressures that end up at the desk of some poor communications professor who never thought he'd have to think about this stuff," said Ms. Aufderheide.

According to the report, communications scholars on the whole frequently use copyrighted works such as books (82 percent), journal articles (86 percent) and Internet content (72 percent).

But according to the report, about 60 percent of the scholars had some difficulty getting access to copyrighted works, including problems with obtaining permissions, prohibitive costs, convenient access or copying options, and technological barriers including encryption.

The authors of the report recommend that scholars develop standards for copyright exemption that include "fair use" allowances guaranteed by federal law. The Center for Social Media has produced a code of best practices for use in the profession.

"Effective use of copyright exemptions, such as fair use, fair dealing, and right of quotation, has been shown to have direct links to the quality and nature of creative work," the authors say in the report. "When creators fail to understand or make use of exemptions that permit quotation of existing (and usually copyrighted) culture, they typically suffer from a failure not only to complete work but a hobbling of the imaginative and creative process itself."

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