¶ 1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 The world of video fair use is changing. Those changes open opportunities for students and scholars and put pressure on traditional journals, such as Shakespeare Quarterly, to reconsider their core formats.
¶ 2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 Will SQ ever want to compete in the intellectual world of critical essays that make arguments in (as opposed to about) new media formats? The decision made for this special issue was no, the grounds practical: at this point in time, the journal doesn’t have the resources or expertise to host such publication formats. Yet resources follow scholarly priorities: should a traditional journal cede this territory to innovative online journals? Are there kinds of arguments that cannot be made in traditional formats, that we (defined as the readership of SQ) need to make?
¶ 3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 I’ll leave that question out there for readers to respond to. Let me turn to the specific case of video fair use to explain why this is now a live issue, in a way it might not have been just a few years ago.
¶ 4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 0 Shakespeare scholars working with screen media have long been hampered by the difficulty and expense of obtaining reproduction rights to the screen texts we wish to quote in our scholarship and classrooms. Our sense of frustration, shared by film scholars before us, harks back to Raymond Bellour’s account of film as an “unattainable text”: unattainable because “textuality” itself consists in a writer’s ability to quote, handle, and engage a work in its own medium, something that (at the time he wrote) was not possible with film.[i] As Bellour so eloquently explains, this ability is foundational to the critical discourse of teachers and scholars.
¶ 5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 0 The discontent among those of us working in visual media has risen in recent years. Tools for quoting, analyzing, and publishing scholarship on audiovisual works have become ever more ubiquitous, elegant, accessible, and easy to use. The exceptional status of audio-visual art – the lack of parallelism with print as regards to fair use – felt ever more acutely problematic.
¶ 6 Leave a comment on paragraph 6 0 Significant progress was achieved by Peter Decherney and his colleagues, who in 2006 successfully petitioned for an educational exemption to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998, allowing media professors to make and use of clips for teaching (including traditional classrooms and distance environments).
The collaborative blog In Media Res, a MediaCommons project, hosts a different scholar or group of scholars every day, each of whom curates a short clip or slideshow “accompanied by a 300-350-word impressionistic response.” As the founders write, “we use the title ‘curator’ because, like a curator in a museum, you are repurposing a media object that already exists and providing context through your commentary, which frames the object in a particular way.” A key goal here is to create scholarly community as well as a crowd-sourced, curated resource of clips. The site makes for fruitful comparison with Bardbox and Shakespeare Performance in Asia (SPIA), both described in Whitney Trettien’s critical review on this site.
The reading of fair use that informs In Media Res is framed in general terms and conforms to what most scholars I know would see as sound practice in any medium.
Critical Commons is a non-profit advocacy coalition that supports the use of media for teaching, learning and creativity, providing resources, information and tools for scholars, students, educators and creators. Critical Commons provides information about current copyright law and its alternatives in order to facilitate the writing and dissemination of best practices and fair use guidelines for scholarly and creative communities. Critical Commons also functions as a showcase for innovative forms of electronic scholarship and creative production that are transformative, culturally enriching and both legally and ethically defensible. At the heart of Critical Commons is an online tool for viewing, tagging, sharing, annotating and curating media within the guidelines established by a given community.
This site’s format and topics are more heterogeneous than In Media Res. They include curated clips, lecture outlines, a blog tracking what’s new in the world of fair use, and an annotated list of fair use guidelines established by organizations such as the Society for Cinema and Media Studies. The goal here seems to be a comprehensive repository of resources, rather than a focal community.
¶ 13 Leave a comment on paragraph 13 0 As active scholars and citizens in a mediated society it behooves Shakespeareans to attend to and participate in these experiments. The editorial boards of any serious journal ought to take note, because fairly soon journals with the capacity to publish not only essays with embedded, playable clips — but also essays in new media formats — will be poaching some portion of our most innovative contributors.
[i] Bellour, Raymond. 1975. “Unattainable Text.” Trans. Ben Brewster. In Constance Penley, ed. 2000. The Analysis of Film. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. I write about this passage at more length in a critical essay on the arts of memory in Hamlet.