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This guide provides a basic overview of copyright law, fair use, copyright for instructors, and other copyright related resources.

Can I show a video to my class?

Before showing a film or video in class, it is important to consider the classroom environment in which you will be delivering the content. For face-to-face instruction, section 110(1) of the Copyright Act provides an exemption that allows for the performance or display of an entire video or film in a classroom, as long as certain conditions are met (see Classroom Use Exemption section). In an online/distance learning classroom, the TEACH Act section 110(2), authorizes the performance or display of a reasonable and limited portion of films. However, it is important to remember that there is a restriction placed on quantity, and showing an entire film will rarely constitute a reasonable and limited portion. You may also rely on fair use for showing a film in an online class, but similarly, showing an entire film online also may not constitute fair use. 

Tips for Using Videos in Online Education

To best position yourself to assert a fair use argument when using video, consider doing the following:

  • Link to the video if possible rather than making an electronic copy available to students. Linking to materials is ordinarily not a violation of copyright but rather a technological instruction for locating materials.
  • If copying a video, do not use any more of the video than the amount needed to serve your purpose.
  • Avoid copying videos from materials created and marketed primarily for use in courses such as the one at hand (e.g. from a textbook, workbook, or other instructional materials designed for the course). Use of more than a brief excerpt from such works on digital networks is unlikely to be transformative and therefore unlikely to be a fair use.
  • Make sure that the video content serves a pedagogical purpose; do not use it as entertainment.
  • Place the video in the context of the course, explaining why it was chosen and what it was intended to illustrate. Recontextualize the video when appropriate through the addition of background readings, study questions, commentary, criticism, annotation, and student reactions.
  • Limit access to the video to students enrolled in the course.
  • Use streaming or other technologies that limit students' ability to download, copy, or redistribute the material.
  • Notify students that videos are being made available for teaching, study, and research only.
  • Provide attributions to known copyright owners of the videos.

Adapted from Fair Use and Copyright for Online Education by the University of Rhode Island, licensed under CC BY 4.0

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Frequently Asked Questions

Our student club wants to show a film but it is for educational purposes. There is a plan for discussion about the issues raised in the film after it's shown. Do we still need Public Performance Rights?
It depends. Typically, when a group or club screens a film, it is intended for entertainment, necessitating the need for Public Performance Rights (PPR). However, if the group primarily engages in educational pursuits, and the screening aligns with those educational goals, it might qualify as fair use, exempting it from requiring PPR.

What about a film series hosted by a group or club that is open to and advertised to the public?

Screening a film within a film series, even when organized or endorsed by an educational group or club, is typically categorized as entertainment. Regardless of the educational context or alignment with the curriculum, this is usually not considered fair use, and Public Performance Rights (PPR) should be secured.d.

I own the DVD that the club I am a member of wants to show. Do I still need to get PPR?
It doesn't matter where the film you are planning to show comes from -- your own collection, the Library's or the corner video rental shop. The analysis is the same. If an exception under copyright law does not apply (e.g. fair use, face to face teaching), then you must obtain PPR prior to showing the film. The source of the film you intend to showcase, whether it's from your personal collection, the library, or a local video rental store, is immaterial. The analysis remains the same. If there are no applicable copyright law exceptions (such as fair use or face-to-face teaching), obtaining PPR is required before screening the film.

What does "Home Use Only" mean? Does it mean I cannot show this DVD to my class?
Under copyright law, copyright holders have the exclusive right to perform or display their copyrighted works, including films or videos. The "Home Use Only" warning at the beginning of most DVDs refers to this exclusive right of performance and display. However, the law also has an exception for performing or displaying works in a face-to-face teaching situation where the work being performed or displayed is related to the curriculum and is only being performed or displayed for students enrolled in a course at a non-profit educational institution. Therefore, under this exception, DVDs with the "Home Use Only" warning can be played in a face-to-face classroom. For online courses, refer to fair use for determining how much of the film can be shown.

May I show clips of films to my students as part of a lecture?
Generally, yes, this is permissible under fair use. Apply the four factors of fair use to determine whether the film in question may be used for this purpose and how much of the film may be shown. New exemptions under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act permit educators to "rip" clips from videos for educational purposes. 

The film I want to show is on Netflix. Can I stream this through my Netflix account in the classroom?

Streaming services like Netflix and Amazon often have extensive membership agreements that may explicitly prohibit the public screening of content subscribed to, including in a classroom or other public venue. By accepting these membership terms, you are entering into a contractual agreement, and the terms of that contract take precedence over any potential exceptions in copyright law. Consequently, if Netflix's membership agreement restricts the screening of a film in a classroom, you are obligated to adhere to those terms, even if the face-to-face teaching exception might otherwise permit it.

Netflix permits a one-time educational screening of some of its documentaries. This means you cannot conduct multiple screenings within a single day or week. However, if you're an educator who wishes to showcase the film once per semester across multiple semesters, that is acceptable. Learn more about Netflix guidelines for educational screenings of documentaries. To find out which titles are available for educational screenings, visit and search for the titles or browse their recent releases. 

Adapted from Copyright on Campus: Showing Movies in Class and on Campus by UF Libraries, licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0.

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