Digital Millenium Copyright Act Hearings Update

Gary Handman, UC Berkeley’s Media Resources Librarian, recently testified on DMCA circumvention exeptions during the DMCA hearings at Stanford University. He was kind enough to share his statements with us:

“Good morning.

My name is Gary Handman.  I am the director of the Media Resources Center, Moffitt Library, UC Berkeley, a position  that I’ve held since 1984.  I also serve as a lecturer in the Film Studies and Media Studies Programs at UCB, as well as a periodic lecturer in other departments and programs, including English, History, American Cultures, Rhetoric, and Theater.

I’d like to thank you for the opportunity to speak here today in support of broadening current DMCA exemptions for circumventing DVD encryption in connection with classroom teaching.  If you’ll refer to the formal comments I submitted late last year, you’ll see that I am speaking here today on behalf of a large number of professional colleagues in libraries and archives across the US who signed their support.

I would like to focus my comments this morning on three basic points:

First, I would like to discuss the almost universal increase in the use and importance of video in classroom teaching and learning across academic disciplines.   I would like to discuss the types of videos commonly used in the classroom, the specific ways these materials are incorporated into classroom activities, and the ways in which current DMCA strictures are seriously and consistently impeding this work.

Secondly, I would like to respond briefly to comments made by the Association of American publishers and others regarding possible alternatives to circumvention of DVD encryption.

And lastly, I would like to offer a few observations and opinions about present and future realities in regard to media use in teaching, learning, and research on university campuses.

In developing these comments, it occurred to me fairly early on that the media center that I administer at UC Berkeley provides  some excellent general insights into the ways in which video is typically collected and used in higher education contexts.

MRC was opened in 1979, a few years after the introduction of home video technologies.  The Center is currently one of the two or three largest video collections in a US academic library.  THE MRC collection includes around 40,000 pieces, about half of which are DVD and half tape.  The collection comprises documentary and educational works, primary source materials, such as news, television programming, as well as a research-level collection of international feature films.  The vast majority of materials in the collection have been commercially acquired.  These resources support and are used by virtually every discipline on the Berkeley campus, and I would say that well over 90% of every video shown in a classroom is borrowed from this collection.  Last academic year, MRC circulated around 90,000 items–that’s over four times more use than even a decade ago.  Almost 100% of the materials circulated were either watched for specific course assignments in the Media Center, or used for screening in the classroom (about 3-4 thousand circulations)

Which departments and programs are the biggest users of this collection?  The casual, outsider observer might think it’d be Film Studies or Mass Communication Studies.  The casual, outside observer would be very wrong.   In fact, on most campuses that I know of that support centralized video libraries like mine, Film and Media Studies departments are almost always relatively minor users of  such collections, if for no other reason than the fact that these departments tend to be academic pipsqueaks in terms of faculty size and student enrollments .  (This isn’t to say, of course, that film isn’t intensively used or vital in those programs)

In terms of numbers, The Big Users are often heavily-enrolled social sciences courses.   The disciplines I’m referring to include Cultural and Ethnic Studies, Women’s Studies, History, and Political Science, Public Policy, Development Studies, Environmental Studies, Education and Psychology.

Courses in these departments use video for a number of reasons:
To focus on the various ways in which movies and TV both shape and reflect cultural and political notions, norms, and fantasies:  in other words, they view film as a kind of cultural artifact or text that can be read and interpreted as historical or sociological documents.  These courses are equally interested in non-fiction films–including documentary film and primary source materials, such as broadcast news to spur discussion and to provide concrete visual evidence and examples of the issues being discussed

Underlying the use of both fiction and non-fiction film in most of these courses is the goal of making students critical, media literate, viewers, rather than simply passive receivers of  the images which increasingly bombard our lives,

I should mention that along with the social sciences, Big Users of video also include language departments (my colleague Mark Kaiser will discuss those users); and English departments, which regularly look at the relationship between film and literary texts and authorship in both graduate and undergraduate courses.

Over the 25 years that I’ve been director of MRC, I’ve witnessed significant changes, not only in the intensity of media use, but also in the ways in which these media have been incorporated into teaching.   It’s clear to me that the vast majority of faculty users of MRC, including film and media studies faculty and those in other disciplines, have, for a number of logistical and pedagogical reasons, gravitated toward using portions of videos in class, rather than screening whole works.

From a logistical perspective alone, this trend isn’t surprising:  a large number of courses are shoehorned into 50 minute slots, and showing an entire film in class simply isn’t feasible, let alone screening it and discussing it.

From a pedagogical perspective, the ability to compare sequences or scenes in the same or multiple works; to zero in on a sequence that addresses a specific point being made in class; and to incorporate a clip into the context of a PowerPoint presentation,
has become central to teaching.  Many of the strong pedagogical arguments offered  last year by Professor Decherney which lead to the expansion of circumvention allowances for film studies and media studies are, in effect, the ones I’m making here on behalf of other academic disciplines.

[PowerPoint presentation with embedded video]

In the days of vhs, almost everyone I know who used video in classroom teaching routinely exercised fair use rights to excerpt a limited number of short clips for these purposes.  Current DMCA strictures against circumventing DVD encryption have, in a sense, trumped these fair use rights, and have left the majority of academic users of video out in the cold. At a time when academic scrutiny and use of media in the classroom continues to skyrocket, the law has basically prevented us from doing our jobs effectively and legally, or from taking advantage of new and useful teaching technologies.

It has been suggested that there are workable alternatives to circumvention.  It’s clear to anyone who has stood behind a lectern  that shuffling multiple DVDs in order to show various clips, or fumbling with remote to find clips on a single disc are simply not   viable options–both are enormously disruptive and time consuming.

The AAP suggests that filming clips off a monitor or TV screen is an option:  it’s not.  Access to the equipment needed to pull this off is seldom readily available to faculty, and the time and technical expertise required to do this effectively are prohibitive.

A great deal of what goes on in the classroom is spontaneous and responsive to the kinds of discussion and the types of questions that arise organically in the process of teaching.  The decision to use a group of clips is often spurred by a discussion that occurred in the previous class.  The AAP’s cumbersome, film-off-screen gambit is not amenable to this type of responsive, creative teaching.

Perhaps most significantly, the resulting low resolution image and poor sound quality are simply not acceptable in most teaching contexts:  clarity of image and sound are most almost always central to clarity of teaching and understanding, regardless of discipline.  More to the point, students are much to media savvy to put up for long with images in the classroom that looked like something the proverbial cat dragged in.

Finally, I’d like to offer a few observations about the real world of academia.  With all due respect, I’d like to suggest that regardless of whether the circumvention allowances are expanded or not, faculty will continue to do what they do.  Moving images have become  too universally engrained in world culture,  too much a an almost genetic part of student life, too central to teaching and research across the disciplinary board to even vaguely ignore.  Limiting circumvention allowances to the formal academic programs known as Film and Media Studies, and limiting the exemption to the use of materials in departmental or campus libraries is completely unrealistic in light of current teaching practice, current institutional resources, and evolving trends in education and scholarship.

Faculty will continue to use the cultural and academic materials available to them in the ways which best support their teaching goals.  These are not 18 year olds, holed up in dorm rooms, wantonly ripping off and Peer to Peer sharing massive quantities of unpaid for content.  These are individuals engaged in socially significant work, using legally-acquired videos for the types of limited and non-commercial uses historically covered under fair use.

I urge that the Librarian of Congress and his advisors to consider expanding current exemptions in order to support the work of teachers and the interest of students, rather than encouraging an almost unavoidable disrespect of the law by committed and responsible individuals.”

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