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February 2, 2008 / Ben Chun

Growing Up Online

Kim Cofino posted about the responsibility of educators to address online behavior and reminded me about the Frontline documentary “Growing Up Online”. One of my colleagues mentioned it, and I think I might have saved the link in my, but never watched it until today. It’s an interesting look at some of the current media framings and issues in popular discourse: social networking, identity, predators, bullying, parenting, and privacy. They talk to experts and interview kids and parents and teachers. It’s good.

It’s also available to watch online, so I thought, “Wow, cool, I am going to grab these videos and show some of the segments in my Technology Orientation classes and we’ll discuss the issues!” But then I figured I’d better check the copyright because I don’t want to be on the wrong side of the law, particularly not as an employee of San Francisco Unified School District. This is what the terms of use on the Frontline web site say:

No material from any web site owned, operated, licensed or controlled by WGBH may be copied, reproduced, republished, uploaded, posted, transmitted, or distributed in any way, except that you may download one copy of the materials on any single computer for your personal, non-commercial home use only, provided you keep intact all copyright and other proprietary notices. Modification of the materials or use of the materials for any other purpose is a violation of WGBH’s copyright and other proprietary rights. (Ed: Emphasis added in case you got bogged down in the verbiage there.)

So if you’re going to download that one copy to your computer for your personal, non-commercial home use only, here are the direct links to the video files for the Frontline documentary “Growing Up Online”, which can be played with the VLC media player:

Just make sure you don’t click those twice and accidentally save two copies, and please don’t watch them outside of your home! On the other hand, the Frontline teacher center FAQ says:

All FRONTLINE documentaries can be taped off-the-air and used for educational purposes for one year from the initial broadcast.

And in the regular Fronline FAQ, they say:

Can I make a copy of your site’s pages/material?

If you’re using it for educational purposes (i.e. you’re teaching a class) you can download a copy as long as you don’t modify any pages. (Please let us know so we can keep track of how our Web site content is being used.) Otherwise, no. As mentioned previously, all of our sites are permanently available; there’s no need to squirrel them away.

So, teachers, if you think the Frontline FAQs trump the legalese in the WGBH terms of use, maybe it’s okay to show those video files to your classes. But even if that’s the case, I have to ask: Why a one-year limit on educational use? Is downloading the video files from the web site the same as taping the show off the air? Does the policy that refers to “pages/material” apply to video files? Things get a little murky here. I can understand that they don’t want people to copy the DVD that is for sale for $50 or maybe for $25 (depending on where you look). It doesn’t even ship until 2/22/08, so that’s not an issue at the moment.

With the entire show available online for free and the conflicted terms of use, this gets very confusing. Creative Commons is designed to solve this is exact kind of problem. It would make a lot of sense for public television broadcasts to use Creative Commons licenses.

I hope that Frontline, which is funded by “the support of PBS viewers” and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Park Foundation, does not intend teachers to be forced to pay to use their content in educational settings. They even have a teacher center with lesson plans and activities related to their shows.

The Growing Up Online teacher’s guide says it will be available in February. I wonder when in February. I wonder if I should wait to see what they’ve got before I jump in with my classes. Maybe next time they do an internet-theme show they can investigate how things seem to happen more quickly these days. If Frontline can get on board with some kind of commons licensing, it would make it much easier for teachers who want to do the right thing, but who might not be as technically or legally savvy, to act with confidence.



Leave a Comment
  1. Marrie Campbell / Feb 6 2008 2:12 pm

    Regarding the points you raised in, “Growing Up Online,” posted this week.

    FRONTLINE wants to thank you for bringing to attention these issues concerning educational access and use of FRONTLINE/WGBH online content. We have been working on addressing these issues and hope to get back to you in the near future about what we have done in this regard.

    Marrie Campbell
    Editorial Director, FRONTLINE


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