Youtube is killing my students[‘] [work]

The Gist:

  • My students created some amazing pieces of scholarly analysis using youtube.
  • The wider audience can never see it because of poorly-thought restrictions our systems and youtube’s systems have put in place.
  • It’s time for us to stop choosing ignorance over what it possible.

The Whole Story:

I’m actually supposed to be grading right now, but I’m angry, so I’m stopping.
I’m not even angry for the usual reasons.
My seniors completed what was their ultimate project of their English Studies at SLA.
The assignment was easy to explain:

  • Choose one of the top 10 most viewed youtube videos of all time.
  • Choose one of the six critical literary lenses (reader-response, gender, socioeconomic, new historicist, postcolonial, deconstructionist) we’ve explored over the last four years.
  • Apply that lens to the video and post it to youtube as a critical literary analysis.
  • For the created product, work in iMovie or use the annotation function of youtube.

The full project description can be seen here.

The work required them to utilize skills as readers, writers, and thinkers.
The problem, youtube – the algorithm, not the people – sees the work as a violation of copyright.
You would too, if you weren’t actually watching the videos to see what they actually are.
I wanted to make certain my thinking on this lines up with the legal requirements, so I went to Kristin Hokanson.
She said it all came down to two questions:

  1. Did the unlicensed use “transform” the material taken from the copyrighted work by using it for a different purpose than the original, or did it just repeat the work for the same intent and value as the original?
  2. Was the amount and nature of material taken appropriate in light of the nature of the copyrighted work and of the use?

She followed up with:
Fair use considers FOUR factors:

  1. the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
  2. the nature of the copyrighted work;
  3. the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
  4. the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

In answer to the first question, yes. Rather than being a video for entertainment, the video is now a non-profit scholarly educational work. As for value, it’s the work of high school students. Some of the value is more, some of the value is less. Will any of these analyses break 1 million views? No.
In answer to the second question, yes. The students used all of the videos because they needed to show how the entirety of the text worked toward supporting their theses. In some cases, they augmented the work with outside slides in order to more fully make a point. Again, the idea here is for the viewer to experience the text concurrently with the analysis, pausing as needed to think more deeply. In the case of something like Miley Cyrus’ “Party in the U.S.A.,” I’m thinking this is a definite repurpose.
Realizing youtube would likely not discern between actual re-purposed non-profit educational work and a simple copy of the original work, I asked the students to submit their work as private videos and then share them with my account.
It was an attempt to keep their work authentic as well as alive.
For the most part, it worked. Then, students started coming in to class telling me their work had been taken down.
Let this be what I say:
For those who complain youtube is destroying culture or thought or any of the rest, this project re-purposed not only the videos, but the medium into a place for scholarly consideration of some of the most globally popular contemporary texts.
For those who argue the blocking of youtube in schools, look at this as a rudimentary example of what can happen when we empower students to think critically about and within online social spaces.
Many of the students worked diligently and thoughtfully on this assignment. If nothing else, they’re more thoughtful and aware of what they view and what it means for a text to be popular.
I’d show you this student work, but then youtube’d have to kill it.


8 thoughts on “Youtube is killing my students[‘] [work]

  1. Have you – or your students – contacted YouTube? Seems like when one of our faculty dance videos was questioned there was an “appeal” link or something where I could make my case (although now that I think about it, that might've been Google Video). Seems like it would be worth at least attempting to contact them.Perhaps YouTube could even create some kind of category/tag for scholarly work like this that would make this easier in the future. You would think they would want to promote stuff like this, so it just might get traction. Just a thought.

  2. I think Karl's suggestion is a good one. Not only would I personally like to see the work your students created I think it should be available for others to see as well. As the year winds down and the number of things you have to do piles up this may just be one too many things to do. On the other hand, I think you've got a compelling case here. Contacting YouTube may lead to their changing a policy, adding a category or a new button for when people submit videos. If they do that, your class' graduation present to the YouTube/Education community may the creation of that new feature.Now wouldn't THAT be a story for them to take away from school. 😉

    • I'm thinking we take all the videos public tomorrow (now that I've watchedthem), and then see what happens. Kristin made a great suggestion ofincluding an explanation of why each video is fair use in the description.Then, when they start to die, we attempt to push through the appealsprocess. It's messy and time-consuming, but well worth it.It's not enough to say youtube can be useful in education, there needs to bea case and proof. I think this is a good chance to work toward it. We'lldefinitely be picking up this project next year. Maybe even more like it.Thanks, both Karl and Darren, for your thoughts. If anything, I hope itleads to more discussion.

  3. My suggestion is you re-post the student work and then engage in the formal counter-notice process if and when takedown occurs again. It's a simple process of informing YouTube that you believe the takedown notice was illegal. When you send a counter-notice, YouTube is required to replace the disputed content unless the complaining party sues you within fourteen business days of your sending the counter-notice.This process would be a great learning experience for students– and position them as engaged advocates, not as victims of the law. The process will require them to use specific, detailed reasoning to justify why their use of the copyrighted work is a fair use. Experiences like this– when they are publicized– add fuel to the efforts to revise DMCA so that our rights as educators aren't trampled upon. At the very least, you should document the experience on, which maintains a database about these issues.As educators, we need to fight for our right to apply the doctrine of fair use to student media projects like this. This assignment is a really excellent example of media literacy education and the opportunity to see these videos can help other English teachers explore assignments like this in their classrooms. Thanks for sharing the story and do let me know if there's anything I can do to help.

  4. Pingback: » The Week in Tweets for 2010-06-07 Bud the Teacher

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