Saturday, July 31, 2010

LOC Implies Second Rate is Good Enough for K-12?

OK, so I'm still confused...and pretty outraged.

I blogged yesterday about the new DMCA exemptions that allow re-mixing of videos for non-commercial purposes.  It looked, from the EFFA article, like students and teachers were now "covered" if they ripped small portions of motion picture DVD's to include in analytical or satirical videos of their own making.

This morning I started slogging through the actual ruling, a marvel of legalese. The exemptions address two major concerns:  1) Whether teachers use tools such as Handbrake to bypass  digital protections in order to rip clips for class view/analysis (a big time-saver, when you're showing 4-5 clips in a class!) and 2) whether students can rip clips for use in analytical or satirical videos of their own making.  The initial proposal, in a nutshell, was this:
The proposed expansions of the class involved extending the class to include all of the motion pictures on CSSprotected DVDs contained in a college or university library (rather than just a film or media studies department) and to encompass classroom use by all college and university professors and students as well as elementary and secondary school teachers and students. [emphasis mine]
With the growth of media studies in K-12 schools, the necessity of incorporating visual literacy into our curricula at an early age and  the burgeoning of film production in schools, it is a no-brainer that K-12 teachers and students would be included in the exemptions, right?

Apparently not.
NTIA supports expansion of the existing class of audiovisual works to include all college and university level instructors and students but does not believe the record justifies an expansion that would include elementary and secondary school teachers and students...First, proponents for educators failed to demonstrate that high quality resolution film clips are necessary for K12 teachers and students, or for college and university students other than film and media studies students. Because other means, such as the use of screen capture software, exist that permit the making of lower quality film clips without circumventing access controls, the Register finds no justification in the record for expanding the class of works to include such persons as express beneficiaries of the designation of this class of works.
If I'm reading this correctly, the argument is that K-12 teachers/students (or non-film studies students in general) don't need high-quality video for the classes or projects. They can use screen-capturing software (such as Camtasia) to just record video off the screen.  (Have you ever tried doing that?  The results are TERRIBLE!)  Basically, this says secondary students don't need to turn out quality video work.  EXCUSE ME?

So it sounds like we're covered if students just screen capture segments to include in their videos, or if teachers do the same to incorporate segments of film into their classes.  But NOT if they use, say, Handbrake, to rip of section from a DVD.

Thus, the LOC's argument is patently ridiculous, and privileges college students as inherently more serious of purpose. Any old second-rate video is fine for the lower grades.  Obviously, these people a) don't remember being in college and b) have little clue as to the quality video work going on in elementary and secondary schools today.

Also, why is it OK for college professors to rip sections from DVD for class analysis, but I can't legally do the same for my high-school film class?  Do they really think that, say, the two year IB Film Studies is any less serious or academic than a one semester freshman class on intro to film? (Take a look at this walk-through on the IB Film Independent Study requirements, as an example). And it's not as if media classes are the only ones doing serious film analysis.  The History and French teachers at my school spend considerable time deconstructing and analyzing films in class.

Moreover,  have you ever tried using Camtasia to capture a video segment? I have.  It's useless for serious analysis, as it skips, freezes, leaves out dialogue, etc.  The capture rate is just not fast enough for film.

So, obviously, if I am reading this correctly (and let me know if I'm not!),  there is still work to be done here. The LOC needs to understand the type of work going on in schools today, and extend these exemptions to ALL academic levels. We need to bombard the Copyright Office with calls and emails expressing our needs and providing examples of the kinds of work our teachers and students do.

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