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Copyright: Media in the Classroom

Guide for using copyrighted materials for students and faculty.

Media in the Face-to-Face Classroom

Section 110(1) of the Copyright Act addresses performance and display of copyrighted materials in the face-to-face classroom. For information about performance and display through digital transmission (i.e. Blackboard), consult the TEACH Act tab.

FAQs about Video Use in the Classroom

1. Can faculty show copyrighted videos to a class?

Yes, faculty may show all or part of a video (i.e. documentary, motion picture) in a face-to-face class setting, but there are some boundaries. The showing must be:

  • in a nonprofit educational institution
  • in a classroom or "similar place devoted to instruction"
  • the copy used must be lawfully made
  • Other notes: instructional activity must be taking place. The teaching activity should not be open to the public. The use of the video should be limited to the campus grounds

2. Can rental store videos be used to show in class?

Yes, these are lawfully made. Netflix DVDs are also permissible.

3. Can library videos be shown in class?

Yes, the library can purchase DVDs for classroom use.

4. Do I need public performance rights to show a video in a class?


5. When do I need public performance rights?

This is necessary when a video is shown and not related to a teaching activity. Campus clubs and social events that wish to show videos must have permission or public performance rights. Any event that is open to the public is a public performance and needs public performance rights.

6. How do I go about getting public performance rights?

Student organizations can work with Student Life to obtain public performance rights.  For faculty, the library can assist you and guide you to permissions agencies.

7. Do the library's videos automatically come with public performance rights?

Not automatically for every video, although some video suppliers include public performance rights with the basic purchase. In some cases you have to purchase the rights on a situational basis.

8. When I request a video for the library collection, can I also request public performance rights?

Yes, but remember that the cost is often higher than the typical video. Contact Danielle Dion if you have specific questions or needs.

9. How can I tell if the video I am borrowing from the library has public performance rights?

You will need to check with library staff. Contact Danielle Dion for more information.

10. What about videos that can be purchased with streaming capability?

Some companies offer educational videos both on DVD and with streaming from the company's server.  Ask Danielle Dion to look into this if you are interested.

11. What about using streaming Netflix?

Instructors may wish to have students watch videos outside of class. While setting this up through Blackboard or a content management system may seem like the solution, showing entire popular, general release movies this way is a real stretch of Fair Use and under the TEACH Act involves licensing.

12. Can I show a YouTube video to my classes?

Yes, using YouTube to demonstrate pedagogical points is fine, however, do not use YouTube videos that contain infringing content just as you would not use any other type of infringing content. YouTube is particularly rife with such material despite YouTube's best efforts. The best way to handle a YouTube video is to link to it.

13. Can I copy a video to make short portions or a compilation of video clips to show in class?

Most videos today are protected by content scrambling systems (CSS), technological protection measures (TPMs) or digital rights management (DRM), and it is a violation of the law to circumvent these protections to copy material from a video. Instructors can always advance video to the portion they wish to comment on, however, the 2012 DMCA exemptions permit faculty and students requiring close analysis of film and media excerpts to circumvent protection measures to make short portions available for viewing. The exemption applies only to motion pictures on DVD or from online distribution services and the circumvention is allowed only when “necessary because reasonably available alternatives, such as non-circumventing methods or using screen capture software …are not able to produce the level of high-quality content required to achieve the desired criticism or comment.” If very high quality copy is not required for the criticism or comment, the law permits the use of screen capture software. Faculty might try products like Camtasia, Jing, and Screencast-o-matic. 

There is no definition of "short portions." Consult the DMCA tab in this guide for more information. Also see the U.S. Copyright Office website for the 2012 "Rulemaking on Exemptions from Prohibition of Technological Measures that Control Access to Copyrighted Works."


Text of Section 110 (1) for Face-to-face teaching situations:

Notwithstanding the provisions of section 106 [of the copyright act], the following are not infringements:

(1) performance or display of a work by instructors or pupils in the course of face-to-face teaching activities of a nonprofit educational institution, in a classroom or similar place devoted to instruction, unless, in the case of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, the performance, or the display of individual images, is given by means of a copy that was not lawfully made under this title, and that the person responsible for the performance knew or had reason to believe was not lawfully made;