Google provides a quick and easy way to search for images, taking just tenths of a second to return millions of results. A person could spend less than a minute thinking of an image, searching for it, and then copying it into a presentation or a video project. But someone photographed that image, and just like scholarly text should be properly cited, so too should digital content be fairly sourced.
Copyright issues get less attention than they should among colleges and universities, which are becoming increasingly saturated with video in academics and beyond. Hundreds of individuals on any given campus produce video, often adding graphics, still photos, audio soundtracks, and stock video clips to round out their own footage. In many cases, they follow all the rules, but too often, they do not.
Raul Burriel, an information technology consultant at Oregon State University, calls it a question of education.
“It is better to be informed and do things properly in the first place, but most people simply go on with the attitude that it’s better to ask forgiveness than it is to ask permission,” Burriel said.
Oregon State has long been a leader in incorporating video into its operations, especially through course content. The university subscribes to services that provide a catalog of royalty-free audio clips. When it comes to video, more often than not, the university reaches out to distributors for permission to use clips on a case-by-case basis, though Burriel said there are instances in which departments or other sections of the university will purchase a “grab bag” of content in hopes that will satisfy a range of faculty needs all at once.
Across the higher education sector, however, copyright concerns tend to be reactive.
“No one does anything until someone gets sued,” Burriel said.
VideoBlocks hopes to change that pattern, announcing new rates for the higher education sector as well as a research grant program to study the impact of visual content on student learning. Similar to California Newsreel’s subscription-based access to a small collection of documentaries, VideoBlocks provides large-scale access to $10 million worth of stock video and audio footage.
While faculty more often need clips from documentaries and other professionally produced content, VideoBlocks Chief Marketing Officer TJ Leonard said the company hopes that department-wide or university-wide subscriptions will bring the stock footage to student producers, too. The VideoBlocks founder actually resolved to start the business as a student himself, frustrated by his lack of resources to make a film more sophisticated with stock footage, music, and professional graphics.
Subscription prices for VideoBlocks’ higher education customers will vary based on the size of the department or institution. A department could get an unlimited annual subscription for $6,500 or an entire campus could do the same for $10,000 to $30,000.
Leonard points to research showing the vast majority of college students self-report making no effort to clear digital material of copyright before using it for class projects.
“I would be hard-pressed to imagine a campus nationwide where someone isn’t using a piece of digital content improperly,” Leonard said, later adding that subscriptions to stock content could provide a resource for students that helps develop good habits for life.
“Our hope is that by making it accessible and affordable, you’ll see that copyright compliance will spike on campuses,” Leonard said.
The question for colleges and universities is what role they should be obliged to play in educating faculty and students about copyright laws in the first place. And then, as video becomes even more entrenched, what role should they play in providing a royalty-free catalog of content?
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