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Fair Use

Again, Abdulallah, Sam, Maureen and I worked together on the Fair Use assignment, even though we likely maxed out our collaborative assignments for this collection. Together we produced a slide show on Fair Use.

Overall, I think our joint presentation adequately explains fair use and gives examples of how copyrighted materials can be used in an educational context. One of the examples I used to show fair use was the film “My Cousin Vinny.” This legal comedy is so full of ethical violations that as an instructor of paralegal studies, I can’t NOT show it to students. After students watch the film clips, they are tasked with identifying the violation and proposing ways to address or resolve the violation. It wasn’t hard to use the movie clips during an in-person course (I used a DVD I purchased) and the clips generated some great discussions. But the first time I taught this class online, the only option to incorporate movie media in the LMS was a link to YouTube. Within days of posting the film clips on YouTube, I received a “Takedown” notice from Fox. Being a relatively new instructor, I complied and feared what could happen to me, my course and my students for allegedly infringing on a copyright.

After going through the readings, I think I would have been on solid ground to use portions of this movie for educational purposes. Using a checklist developed by The University of Arizona, my use of the film “My Cousin Vinny” for a legal ethics course would have been fair use.

One thought that stuck with me was from the readings is this:

“Legally quoting someone else’s words, images and music without paying or asking permission…as long as it benefits society more than it hurts the copyright holder.”

The Cost of Copyright Confusion for Media Literacy

Using My Cousin Vinny to illustrate sometimes difficult legal and ethical concepts seems like a no brainer. Why shouldn’t an attorney represent co-defendants in a criminal matter? Why is it important that a lawyer is competent? How can lawyers violate the rule against unauthorized practice of law? Why is it important the each side deal with the other fairly? What’s really at stake when legal ethics are breached? The students are familiar with the actors, they can relate to the situation and it’s just a fun film. So the relatively minor use, maybe 15% of the entire work, to teach paralegal students about legal ethics will benefit society more than it will hurt Fox.


  1. Chris Lott Chris Lott July 11, 2019

    This makes sense! One of the reasons we pushed for Kaltura was to allow instructors to better assert their rights to fair use because, as you have seen, the big machines such as YouTube aren’t particularly discerning…

    That video is very good.

    • dmwaters dmwaters July 12, 2019

      Kaltura has been great! But with the newest iteration, creating a transcript from the closed captioning is quite a pain. Unless there’s an easier work around?

  2. Chris Lott Chris Lott July 11, 2019

    One tech question: is there a reason you decided against embedding the slide show? If you choose not to, perhaps you could link the image of the first slide as well? (that’s my natural place to click)

    • dmwaters dmwaters July 12, 2019

      This was a time crunch glitch on my part. Instead of using an embed with custom HTML, I just tried to paste and WP converted the presentation to a link. I’ll fix that to be more use friendly.

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