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Best Practices Help End Copyright Confusion

Hobbs, R.

FROM THE ARTICLE: When English and film professor Peter DeCherney co-hosted the annual Mashup Contest at Weigle Information Commons at the University of Pennsylvania last year, he used a mashup activity as a powerful tool for teaching and learning. A mashup consists of a combination of multiple sources of media integrated into a new creative work. Students from across the university were invited to compose a new visual message by using excerpts and clips of existing copyrighted materials. For example, one student re-edited film clips from
The Titanic into a movie trailer designed to portray Jack as a serial killer who is stalking Rose.

Of course, artists have always created new ideas by using, reworking, and manipulating pre-existing materials that are culturally familiar and relevant. Similarly, educators have always encouraged learners to copy, modify, and transform classic texts to make them relevant to contemporary contexts. As DeCherney explained, “When students create mashup videos, they learn how to view films and how to analyze them. Thinking about editing, thinking about sound, thinking about narrative structure, visual framing and composition—all
these things help us to become more critical viewers and citizens.” For those teaching literacy using the pedagogy of media literacy education in the context of 21st century learning skills, interest in this kind of work has
increased in recent years.

Unfortunately, some English teachers may discourage creative assignments like this because they are uncomfortable with the copyright questions that such work may generate. Many educators—at all levels— lack information or are misinformed about copyright and fair use.

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