Study finds Web content legal


A new study suggests that many uses of copyrighted material in online video, including mash-ups and satire, are legal and could be endangered by new censorship practices.

The study, "Recut, Reframe, Recycle: Quoting Copryighted Material in User-Generated Video" was conducted by American University professors Pat Aufderheide and Peter Jaszi and looked at thousands of videos on 75 online platforms. It defines nine types of legal uses of copyrighted online video, ranging from commentary and discussion to incidental use and example, and warns that new private censorship practices could curtail the creation and distribution of this user-generated content.

This issue was at the forefront of online discussions last year as such sites as Google's YouTube and Daily Motion continued to be popular forums for users to watch copyrighted content.

Viacom sued Google for $1 billion for copyright infringement in March and later in the year media conglomerates and Web video platforms — Google excluded —released a set of standards aiming to protect copyrighted work from being pirated on the Web. Google also has pledged to work with content owners to keep pirated material off its site.

Proponents of fair use, though, said that these new practices are too wide ranging and could hurt creativity on the Web. The new study, which will be detailed next week at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, makes a similar point.

Aufderheide and Jaszi conducted an influential study in 2004 that examined fair use in documentary films.