Social Science Research Network
Few journalists understand the rules of fair use, but they often successfully fake their way through the issues it raises. That's one takeaway from "Copyright, Free Speech, and the Public's Right to Know: How Journalists Think About Fair Use
," a study by Patricia Aufderheide, Peter Jaszi, Katie Bieze and Jan Lauren Boyles, who interviewed 80 journalists and compared their often-comical understanding of legal matters to reality.
Among their findings, people who work in newsrooms had the advantage of colleagues they could consult:
Interviewees who work within institutions had confidence that their editors had established a newsroom practice that they could comfortably follow. Journalists also referred often to “common sense,” or as one put it, “You just know in general you shouldn’t park too close to a hydrant.” Through this process, most journalists acquire baseline knowledge of fair use, often without realizing they are even relying on it. Those who lack newsroom support often display less confidence.
Amazingly, they often got it right:
Interviewees demonstrated a robust confidence in their ability to access other people’s copyrighted material without permission or payment, in some situations, typically without knowing they were employing fair use. Further, when they employed fair use without identifying it as such, they often accurately used the reigning logic of the doctrine -- transformative purpose and appropriate amount.
Photo editors were more sensitive to copyright concerns than others, maybe because so many of the people they work with get their stuff stolen all the time.