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Media Breaker–for talking back (and teaching fair use)

Encouraging students to celebrate and use the rich portals of the ever-growing Creative Commons movement to find copyright-friendly media is an instructional no-brainer.

Teaching students how and when to flex their fair use muscles–how to decide when their use of copyrighted media is truly transformative–is a greater challenge.  But it is a challenge we must address to build media literacy and to ensure students are able to ethically and critically able to participate in media conversations as citizens.

Launched last week, Media Breaker, is a free, online video editor, designed to help students learn to ethically and creatively remix copyrighted media while they learn about and apply fair use guidelines.  The project is supported by the Knight Prototype Fund and developed in partnership with Pace University’s Seidenberg Creative Labs.

Media Breaker was inspired by the nonprofit, The LAMP’s (Learning About Multimedia Project), experiences with public school students.

The LAMP team wanted to address their field observations that media literacy was impaired by students’ limited awareness of fair use, as well as their limited access to the tools for media making.

Director of Communications and Development,  Emily Long, discussed the rationale:

Being able to think critically about and actively respond to media content is a key component of 21st-century learning. Popular media are excellent tools for engaging youth in learning these skills and applying them to daily life, and that’s what the Media Breaker encourages. We want young people to learn how to talk back to mass media messages, and create their own media to take control of the power media can have over their lives.

A Knight Foundation blog post, shares that the roll-out plan includes major cities and conferences, culminating in a Super Bowl party in New York City where teens will break game-day commercials.

LAMP Executive Director D.C. Vito shares the big vision:

It is our intent to help create 10,000 Jon Stewarts—engaged, excited and activated users breaking the media and changing the message.

Currently, some Maintenance is Underway on the Media Breaker editor, but the team assures me it should be back up any minute.

While students can certainly edit and talk back to video using other free tools like iMovie, MovieMaker, and they can remix with web-based tools like WeVideo and PopcornMaker, Emily Long, described the benefits of using this particular newly launched editor:

The Media Breaker has fair use tools baked in.  It is impossible to make a video with the Media Breaker that gets published without students learning some aspects of fair use.  From a tech standpoint, the Media Breaker differs from Popcorn Maker, because it allows you to remix video within, Popcorn layers comments on top of existing video without actually editing.

To use the Media Breaker editor and be able to share their work publicly, students over 13, should carefully read and agree to the Terms of Service, which includes the following statement balancing students’ ownership of content with their fair use rights:

3.1. Anything you create on the Media Breaker belongs to the Media Breaker. By creating and submitting a video, you are assigning all rights in the work, including the copyright and the right to copy the video and post it online. (This is for your protection – if anyone brings legal action as a result of a video on the Media Breaker, we don’t want you to have to be involved.)

Emily Long explained the unusual terms and the assumption of ownership as a strategy designed to provide student creators legal protections.

We have a team of lawyers reviewing each video before it goes up for compliance with fair use guidelines, and they are ready to defend each video before it goes up for compliance with fair use guidelines, and they are ready to defend us in the case of a take-down notice or allegation of copyright infringement.  

Fair Use is a free-speech issue, and we designed the Media Breaker to facilitate people using their rights to remix, hack and criticize media.

Plus, all videos created with the Media Breaker are shareable and embeddable, so makers can proudly share their work on social media with confidence that they are acting within their rights under fair use. During the process of testing the Media Breaker, we found that while many students initially balked at the idea of us taking ownership of their work, once we explained that it was to protect them from lawsuits, they quickly understood.  If anything, students seemed more enthusiastic that their creation could get attention, and all the while they would be protected and acting within their rights.

Here are some models of Media Breaker commercial critiques:

Additional resources:

Thanks to Gary Price (Infodocket) for the lead! 


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Joyce Valenza About Joyce Valenza

Joyce is the teacher-librarian at Springfield Township High School, a technology writer, and a blogger. Follow her on Twitter: @joycevalenza

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