Code of Best Practices In Fair Use for Online Video – Remix Culture


The American University School of Communication's Center for Social Media has released a report on what constitutes fair use of copyrighted video and material online.

It is a code of best practices that helps creators, online providers, copyright holders, and others interested in the making of online video interpret the copyright doctrine of fair use. Fair use is the right to use copyrighted material without permission or payment under some circumstances.

A panel of experts including academics, scientists, lawyers and professionals gathered together to put forth what they believe is a comprehensive fair use doctrine covering material that is copyrighted. It does not include any public domain or Creative Commons usage issues or recommendations. The 16-page report outlines various uses that would be considered Fair Use and include:

  • Commenting on or Critiquing of Copyrighted Material.
  • Usage for illustration or example.
  • Capturing incidentally or accidentally.
  • Reproducing, reposting or quoting to memorialize, preserve or rescue.
  • Copying, reposting or recirculating to stimulate discussion.
  • Quoting and recombining to show relationship

As stated in the report these are not the only possible fair uses of copyrighted material, but they represent the most common uses currently. They go on to further say that noncommerical use is generally Fair Use but only when limited to a specific closed group and not when generally available. There are also very commercial uses that could be Fair Use as well.


This report is indeed interesting reading for anyone who is or is considering the usage of copyrighted material in any of their current or future online video projects and is recommended reading. You can read the report online or download it as a PDF.

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About the Author -
Mark Robertson is the Founder and Publisher of ReelSEO, an online information resource dedicated to the fusion of video, technology, social media, search, and internet marketing. He is a YouTube Certified, video marketing consultant and video marketing expert, popular speaker, and considered to be a passionate leader within the online video and search marketing industries. View All Posts By -

What do you think? ▼
  • Josh

    That's pretty handy to find. A colleague and I are looking into publishing some online video content, so it's helpful to have access to this. Thanks!

  • RobShaver

    "It does not include any public domain or Creative Commons usage issues or recommendations."

    Is there any video in the public domain? By law everything is copyrighted as soon as it's created, right? The copyright duration is longer than video has been in existence … well almost.

    Creative Commons is a license which depends on copyright to work. So fair use applies to media with any CC license just the same as any media without it, right?

    The video should be edited to be half its length. It doesn't say anything useful until about half way through. Did they have to make it longer (and more boring) so that their fair use clips constituted a small fraction of the running time? The actual examples were more illuminating than the talking heads.

    • Mark R Robertson

      I agree – the video sucks, but the PDF is worthwhile, right?

  • Biletul Zilei

    "For example, fair use will not apply when a copyrighted song is used in its entirety as a sound track for a newly created video simply because the music evokes a desired mood rather than to change its meaning"
    That doesn’t make any sense; it’s covered in item two, illustration or example. Emotions need a way to be illustrated or exemplified as well. Using a copyrighted song for its emotional purpose is no different from quoting a historian for their factual purpose.
    Perhaps that bit is included as a concession to the record companies, but that doesn’t mean it makes any more sense to the average video uploader.
    It’s a real shame because everything else in this document is wonderful.

  • piese auto ieftine

    If this code would be known by all those who publish something else would look online. I hope it will be implemented in time.