Though the use of video in the classroom is on the rise, the fear of legal recrimination has discouraged many educators from reproducing or editing digital video clips for educational purposes. Now, Discovery Education–the world’s leading provider of streaming video and multimedia learning services to schools–has found a way to help educators avoid many of these copyright concerns.

Through a new offer, subscribers to Discovery’s unitedstreaming video-on-demand service now have access to more than 1,000 video clips that have been copyright-cleared by their producers for editing or reproduction by teachers and students in class projects. (For a full list of available titles, click here.)

Rod Dunklee, technology applications specialist for the 30,000-student Clear Creek School District, in a suburb of Houston, says the copyright-free clips enable him to facilitate professional development exercises for teachers in ways he never would have imagined before.

Related item:
  • Complete list of royalty-free videos

    Rather than use entire videos, Dunklee tries something many educators in this age of file-sharing lawsuits and huge copyright infringement fines ordinarily might avoid: He splices together pieces of the most relevant video clips, building his own visual presentation from a library of clips without ever once picking up the phone to ask permission from the copyright holder. And he does it all without batting an eye.

    Not that he takes copyright infringement lightly. “Teachers could potentially lose their jobs over allowing students to break copyright law,” explained Dunklee, who warned that the “fair-use” provision in current U.S. copyright law is very narrow in scope and does not necessarily protect educators from the threat of lawsuits.

    But, he added, with Discovery’s copyright-approved clips, teachers needn’t worry about that. Instead, they can spend time thinking of ways to use the technology to promote innovation in the classroom–editing and splicing videos, for example, to make the most of limited class time. And students are free to use the clips in multimedia presentations and other class projects.

    Company spokesman David Pendery said the goal is to increase the use and versatility of Discovery’s popular unitedstreaming tool, which reportedly is used by more than 26,000 schools. Instead of merely showing the videos in class, he said, students and teachers now have the ability to take select clips and alter them, providing just one more way for educators to integrate video into new learning opportunities.

    Current Discovery subscribers who want access to the editable clips can log onto the unitedstreaming web page and select the box for “editable clips” on the advanced search page.

    By January, Pendery said, every editable clip in unitedstreaming’s library will be flagged with an icon that signifies to educators it has been cleared with producers for use in projects and can be edited without fear of legal reprisal from the copyright holder.

    Discovery began approaching authors and producers of its video content with the idea of providing editable material that could be altered by teachers and students in the classroom in response to an outpouring of requests from educators, Pendery said. Primarily, subscribers indicated they wanted a multimedia service that provided tools not only for screening educational videos, but also for using video in the context of multimedia projects and in-class assignments.

    Rather than place the onus on the educators or students to secure the necessary copyright exemptions on their own, Discovery executives decided to jump through the legal hoops for them, Pendery explained. The idea was that Discovery could use its existing relationships with content producers to help expedite the clearance process and save educators some time.

    “Teachers have asked us for this,” said Pendery, who added there isn’t really a lot of video content available for educators to use that is free of the threat of copyright infringement. When it comes to using copyright-protected material in the classroom, he said, educators are generally “a little gun shy” as to how to approach content producers and take advantage of their rights.

    Because all of the clips featured in Discovery’s video library can be accessed using a standard QuickTime or Windows Media Player application, Pendery said, every eligible clip is available for downloading with editing software and tools already widely available in schools.

    To get clearance, Discovery approached every provider in its library of more than 35,000 educational-style video clips. Though many are still reluctant to sign on, Pendery said, the company hopes in the future to increase the number of videos available for teachers and students to edit.

    The more students and teachers can do with these videos, he said, the more likely they are to be used in the classroom–and that works out well for everyone.

    Schools looking to purchase unitedstreaming can take advantage of a 30-day free trial, which provides access to Discovery’s full library of videos and video snippets. Trial members are invited to stream as many videos as they wish, however, they cannot download the videos and manipulate them.

    After the trial period, school customers can purchase Discovery’s unitedstreaming product on an annual basis. The prices range from $995 a year for K-8 schools to $1,495 for high schools, according to unitedstreaming’s web site.

    Related item:

    Complete list of unitedstreaming royalty-free videos

    Links:

    Discovery Education