Study Finds Copyright Concerns Affect Research

A survey by American University’s Center for Social Media and the Intl. Communication Association finds that many communications scholars lack confidence in their knowledge of copyright laws in relation to their research. The survey of ICA members, titled “Clipping Our Own Wings: Copyright and Creativity in Communication Research”—to which about 8 percent of ICA members, or 387, responded—found that nearly half of them weren’t 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.

Patricia Aufderheide, director of the Center and part of the committee that produced the report, said that in the last two decades there has been an erosion of the application of ‘fair use.’  She cited the growth of the Internet, tightening of copyright rules, and the growth of large media copyright holders, among other things.

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 about 60 percent of them 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 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. See http://www.centerforsocialmedia.org/

–from article by Jill Laster in The Chronicle of Higher Education, April 1, 2010.

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