The 2016 State of Digital Media in Higher Education Survey, gathered insights from more than 300 current educators, administrators, and students that hail from more than 200 universities. The survey examined topics critical to today’s universities, including digital literacy, media usage and access, and copyright compliance.
Over the last ten years, there have been reports of the publishing industry cracking down on professors who make copyrighted work available to students, a practice they estimate costs them nearly $20 million a year. As James O’Neil with Bloomberg News put it, “The conflict stems from the interpretation of ‘fair use.’” Considering how difficult fair use is to interpret and how technology has opened the door to presentations and projects using multiple medias, this conflict has started to affect a lot more than just textbooks.
American copyright law is intentionally opaque. Outside of legal departments, few students or faculty members have a thorough understanding of Fair Use. Some studies even support an assertion that "no one" on campus understands it.
While this fog is helpful for courts that must continually interpret and redefine the spirit of copyright in the face of evolving technology (i.e., everything to come along since the printing press), the same gray areas can lead to confusion, intimidation, and widespread noncompliance on campus.