YouTube Video fair game in TV newscasts?

Syracuse University professor Hub Brown put forth a good question today when he asked a group of broadcast journalism educators what they do about YouTube video in student stories.

We’ve been having a discussion here at Newhouse about the use of online video by students in skills courses—the copyright implications, the limits of “fair use,” and what policies we should enforce going forward. Like many of you I’m sure, we have been getting cases of students wanting to use video they find online (especially in the user-generated world of YouTube), often instead of going out and shooting it themselves. Sometimes they will try to credit YouTube (which is all kinds of wrong); rarely do they go to the person who shot the video and get his/her permission to use it. We’ve been rejecting those cases.

So, is that just old-fashioned thinking or solid, ethical journalism?  At WTVA in Tupelo, Miss., Assistant News Director Craig Ford says using YouTube video is relatively rare.

“I can tell you that as a rule we don’t use YouTube video unless we get permission from the owner.  Could we claim ‘fair use?’  Possibly.  However, getting permission takes us out of the gray area and puts us on solid legal footing, at least in my mind,” Ford wrote in an email.

Cynthia Joyce studies social media and teaches journalism and the University of Mississippi.  The former senior producer/editor for MSNBC. com says it’s hard to know what’s legal, much less what’s ethical.

“Do the TV stations who regularly use YouTube content mind when their footage winds up in the hands of amateurs online — or on late-night comedy shows, for that matter? Or does that just help boost their brand?” asks Joyce in an email.

Screen Shot 2013-03-26 at 3.52.30 PMAt KALB-TV in Alexandria, La., News Director Keith Weiss has no problem using YouTube video as long as they’re alerting the viewers.

“Any YouTube video we use is clearly identified visually as well as in our copy,” wrote Weiss in an email.

Virginia Commonwealth University’s Dr. Tim Bajkiewicz says it’s important to teach students how to appropriately use content from the public.

“For our TV news video production classes the instructor has a general rule of no or, given newsworthy reasons, no more than about 10 percent of the entire video may be from other sources. A “From” or “Courtesy” credit is required, depending on if they didn’t get permission or did, respectively. And YouTube credit should include the username, e.g., YouTube/mediacabbage,” Bajkiewicz wrote.

Bajkiewicz says for the school’s on-air newscast, video from YouTube or other sources can only be used if the students couldn’t have shot it themselves, e.g., a fight that broke out.

Joyce says when she was in the newsroom and decisions were being made regarding whether or not to show a YouTube video, it was a very fuzzy process, not one guided by precedent or principle.

“The excuse frequently used is that the news is just reporting what’s “already out there” — but it sets a precedent whereby the more popular something is, the less ownership or authorship matters.”