Date of Award

May 2018

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Media Studies

First Advisor

David S Allen

Committee Members

Michael Z Newman, Marc Tasman


Copyright, Fair Use, Online Protest Movements, Participatory Culture, Public Sphere, YouTube


This thesis examines how citizens used YouTube to air concerns about copyright law and its influence on content creation. It studies the “Where’s the Fair Use?” (#WTFU) movement that was formed in February 2016 and used YouTube videos to oppose the site’s copyright systems. Using textual and discourse analysis, this thesis examines seven different videos and their respective comment sections. It analyzes how video is used to express dissent, it analyzes the movement’s discourse about fair use, and it examines how YouTube’s copyright systems influence participation. Among the findings, this thesis argues that videos are framed much like television news stories to create a sense of credibility and authenticity as well as a shared sense of space for the movement. It also suggests that while the movement’s discourses on fair use often express the values of a free culture, they also put forward more capitalist interests in an attempt to ensure the profitability of their work. The discourses expressed in the comments and videos often oppose one another and reveal YouTube as a site of conflict about the interpretation of copyright law and the role it ought to play in structuring expression in a democratic society.