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Putting the Set of Principles in Fair Use for Journalism to Work

“Too often, journalists think of copyright as something to fear, and these principles present it instead as opportunities for journalism and reporting,” said Poynter Institute’s Ellyn Angelotti, organizer of the TEDxPoynter event in St. Petersburg, FL on June 7.

“At my newspaper, we’re all tweeting and blogging all the time, and this will really help us,” said Eric Deggans, media critic of the Tampa Bay Times.

Those were two of the many responses journalists had at TEDxPoynter, where I gave the kickoff presentation.

Fair Use as Breaking News

At precisely 10am, the hundred journalists in the room did what they do best—broke news. They furiously tweeted the news that the Set of Principles in Fair Use for Journalism had been launched. If you missed it, you can catch my presentation here 

Since its launch, new learning tools have been added to enhance understanding of how to use the principles. Check out, for instance, these video FAQ answers. And watch how TedxPoynter speakers—all journalists--responded to the creation of the principles. Journalists made four points:

We use fair use every day in our work: 


The Principles help us do our work in a digital, social-media era: 


The Principles help us understand copyright law: 

The Principles give us confidence to do better, more efficient work: 


More Learning Tools

You can also find a slideshow presentation, which teachers and workshop presenters are free to use, some examples of fair use in journalism, and much more information for your own, or your students’ education.

The Center is also offering fair use workshops for media organizations, tailored to their issues. (Contact the Center's Associate Director for more information: das [at] american dot edu.) The inaugural workshop was at Hanley Wood, a major journalism resource for the construction industry. Hanley Wood has impressively networked its journalists with digital integration that requires them to have a sound grasp of fair use throughout their days.  

The Principles, launched with nine signatories, including the Poynter Institute, the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, J-Lab and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, has since won others, including Center for Public Interest Journalism and National Lesbian and Gay Journalism Association.

Making Journalism Easier and Better

Journalists at TEDxPoynter were hopeful that the Principles could enable better journalism.

“I hope that this document can help editors stick up for their reporters and writers, and go back to counsel and say, we have rights, tell the rights holder we can use this,” said Tim Burke, a sports commentator who excerpts video of major league sports every day at Deadspin.

 “Clarity always makes you more confident, doesn’t it? I think these Principles will make me much bolder,” said Kelly McBride of Poynter. “I hope it does the same for others.”