Fair Use and Academic Freedom: Asserting Fair
Use Rights in Communication

Scheduled for Thursday, May 21st, from 1-5 pm, this pre-conference is a working session of about 40 communication scholars who will brainstorm research to analyze the problems of access to copyrighted material in the academic field of communication today, and to develop a proposal for addressing those problems further within our professional context. We expect that participants will look upon this event as the beginning of a project. The format will be that of a workshop; there will be no paper presentations. Cost: $25. To apply to participate, send a one-page document including: a short biography (one paragraph); and description (one to two paragraphs) of your interest and/or research on this topic, suitable for posting/publication. Send either in email text or Word attachment with “ICA preconference” in the subject heading to Patricia Aufderheide (

Communication scholars need fair use to be able to do their work. Scholars and creators have increasingly found copyright restrictions to impose burdens harsh enough to affect the range, quality and type of work that we undertake. The recent rise of digital making and sharing practices, in combination with the growth of broadband distribution, has made this problem increasingly acute. In this process, the ideology of authorship–a reverence for individual authorship that is a legacy of 19th century Romanticism and that carefully excludes the social aspects of creativity–has been sedulously invoked by the publishers, distributors and content companies with which scholars and creators must interact.

Marginalized, by contrast, has been the underlying goal of copyright, to promote and reward the creation of culture. Similarly marginalized has been the recognition of art or expression not merely as finished objects but as practice, to borrow an insight from Raymond Williams, one of the founding thinkers of the field of communication.

Communication scholars have special needs to access copyrighted material in order both to analyze it and to create new work, as well as to teach effectively and support student creative and scholarly projects. Circulation of this work, not only in nonprofit environments but in the corporate world of distribution, is critical to its evolution and to growth of the field. Often neither the authors nor their publishers and distributors are well-informed about copyright and their options under the law. At the same time that scholars and creators have encountered obstacles to doing their work well because of copyright, they have also collectively found ways to assert their rights and develop tools to address the problem. For instance, as has been demonstrated dramatically and publicly since 2005, with the launch of the Documentary Filmmakers’ Statement of Best Practices in Fair Use, the copyright doctrine of fair use is a vital and useable tool to fairly and legally employ copyrighted material in new academic and creative work. In the wake of its success in changing industry practice, other creator groups, including media literacy teachers and film scholars, have publicly established their interpretations of fair use, through their professional associations. Communication scholars could build upon this example and extend the effort in the interest of their research and teaching.

The preconference is organized by Chris Boulton, PhD student in Communication at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and Patricia Aufderheide, professor and director of the Center for Social Media in the School of Communication at American University. Sponsoring Divisions: Communication and Technology; Communication, Law and Policy; Philosophy of Communication; Political Communication; Popular Communication; Visual Communication Studies Division  It is partly supported by the Ford Foundation, through the Future of Public Media Project at the Center for Social Media at American University, and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, through the Media Education Lab at Temple University.

C H R I S   B O U L T O N
PhD Student in Communication
University of Massachusetts, Amherst


Welcome to the new website for the Canadian Institute for Academic Freedom and Rights. Here you’ll find all sorts of information pertaining to the history and current climate of freedom and rights on Canadian campuses and within the Canadian Academy. The site was started in light of a protracted campaign by groups in Canada to shut down activism, dissent and protest on Canadian campuses. From the firing and police-assisted removal of Denis Rancourt at the University of Ottawa to February 15th’s full-page ad in the National Post by B’nai Brith that demonizes student activism – students and academics in Canada are engaged in an incredibly important struggle for their rights and freedoms.

Academic freedom in Canada is being hijacked.  Posters are being banned, conferences shut down, events cancelled, positions terminated, bodies removed. And one of the most important things about academic freedom is that it levels the playing the field – this is what the B’nai Brith are seizing on – namely the ‘hurt’ that their students/followers are experiencing. But all of this is detracting from the groups that are most powerless and what is at issue is the power to define – whose experience gets legitimized and whose is so easily marginalized?

Here is the text of the B’nai Brith full page ad on the back of the National post, published Feb. 15/09:


“Presidents of Canadian universities must demonstrate leadership. They must come forward to prevent Israeli Apartheid Week, an event that has become notorious for promoting hatred against the Jewish State and its student supporters here at home. They must stand up to the daily ongoing anti-Jewish agitation that has taken root on campuses across the country.

Boards of governors, professors, alumni and benefactors must also act now.

A poisoned environment is being fostered where Jewish students are increasingly intimidated and targeted for hate. In recent weeks, there have been documented assaults on Jewish students, threats, on-going harassment, and mob scenes. These incidents are being ignored  by university administrations and campus security. Police forces, when called to the scene, all too often turn a blind eye.

The pretense that Canada is well is over. When good people do not act, radicals fill the void.


**How You Can Make a Difference**

-If you are a graduate of a university that refuses to condemn antisemitic hate fests, it is time to register your protest directly with a copy to

-If you are a donor to such a university, it is time to withhold any future contributions. Inform B’nai Brith of your actions.

-If you are a Canadian taxpayer and want to stop your dollars from promoting hate, voice your public opposition at every opportunity. Work with B’nai Brith to stop the intolerace.

-If you are a concerned Canadian who opposes the hijacking of campus agendas by those promoting hatred, then you are bliged to speak up.

B’nai Brith Canada pledges its ogoing support to Jewish students. We urge students to call the organisation’s toll free 24-7 hotline – 1-800-892-2624 – to report all antisemitic incidents.

Subscribe to <; to keep fully informed about ongoing human rights violations on campuses.”