User Generated Content and copyryght

Peter Jaszi, Professor at the American University Washington College of Law, has written to let us know of the release of a report on User Generated Content and copyright entitled Recut, Reframe, Recycle: Quoting Copyrighted Material in User-Generated Video. The study includes a blog. I’ll let the report’s press release provide more details about the content:

“A new, first-of-its-kind study conducted by American University Professors Pat Aufderheide and Peter Jaszi finds that many online videos creatively use copyrighted materials in ways that are eligible for fair use consideration under copyright law. In short, they are potentially using copyrighted material legally. These uses—an exercise of freedom-of-speech rights–are currently threatened by anti-piracy measures online. The authors will discuss their findings at a Monday panel on digital rights management, at the 2008 International Consumer Electronics Show Monday, Jan. 7 in Las Vegas, NV.

The study, Recut, Reframe, Recycle: Quoting Copyrighted Material in User-Generated Video (, identifies nine kinds of uses of copyrighted material, ranging from incidental (a video maker’s family sings “Happy Birthday”) to parody (a Christian takeoff on the song “Baby Got Back”) to pastiche and collage (finger-dancing to “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger”).

Researchers in the Washington College of Law and School of Communication followed thousands of links for videos on 75 online video platforms and discovered nine popular kinds of use (extensive database of examples at They are:

  1. Parody and satire: Copyrighted material used in spoofing of popular mass media, celebrities or politicians (Baby Got Book)
  2. Negative or critical commentary: Copyrighted material used to communicate a negative message (Metallica Sucks)
  3. Positive commentary: Copyrighted material used to communicate a positive message (Steve Irwin Fan Tribute)
  4. Quoting to trigger discussion: Copyrighted material used to highlight an issue and prompt public awareness, discourse (Abstinence PSA on
  5. Illustration or example: Copyrighted material used to support a new idea with pictures and sound (Evolution of Dance)
  6. Incidental use: Copyrighted material captured as part of capturing something else (Prisoners Dance to Thriller)
  7. Personal reportage/diaries: Copyrighted material incorporated into the chronicling of a personal experience (Me on stage with U2 … AGAIN!!!)
  8. Archiving of vulnerable or revealing materials: Copyrighted material that might have a short life on mainstream media due to controversy (Stephen Colbert’s Speech at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner)
  9. Pastiche or collage: Several copyrighted materials incorporated together into a new creation, or in other cases, an imitation of sorts of copyrighted work (Apple Commercial)”

I’ve had a brief look at the website and the report, and this looks very thorough. It is great to see UGC being taken seriously by academics of the highest calibre.

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