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Copyright & Fair Use: Showing Movies in Class and on Campus

Can I Show a Video to my Online Class?

The Copyright Act at §110(1) (face to face teaching exemption) allows for the performance or display of video or film in a classroom where instruction takes place in classroom with enrolled students physically present and the film is related to the curricular goals of the course.

The TEACH Act amendment to the Copyright Act, codified at § 110(2), permits the performance of a reasonable and limited portion of films in an online classroom. Under the TEACH Act, there is the express limitation on quantity, and an entire film will rarely constitute a reasonable and limited portion.  Using the TEACH Act Checklist will help instructors  to comply with the requirements when showing films in online classes.

Instructors may also rely upon fair use for showing films in an online course, although showing an entire film online also may not constitute fair use. 

Finally, the DMCA prohibits the circumvention of technological prevention measures (TPM) on DVDs and other media for the purpose of copying and distributing their content. Therefore, digitizing and streaming an entire DVD is not permissible unless an express exemption permits this. Currently, there is an exemption permitting faculty to circumvent TPM only to make clips of films for use in teaching and research.

Content adapted from the University of Florida under CC BY-NC 4.0.

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. Ordinarily, the showing of a film by a group or club is for entertainment purposes and thus PPR is required. However, if the group's purpose and activities are ordinarily educational in nature and the showing of the film is in furtherance of those educational purposes and activities, then it may be fair use to show the film without PPR. 

What about a film series hosted by a group or club that is open to and advertised to the public?
The showing of a film as part of a film series is viewed as entertainment even if hosted or sponsored by an educational group or club. No matter how educational the setting or how tied to the curriculum, this is generally considered not to be fair use and PPR must be obtained.

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.

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 of performing or displaying 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 only being performed or displayed for students enrolled in a course at a non-profit educational institution (such as UF). 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. 

If the library or I own the DVD that I want to show in my online class do I still need to get PPR?

The fact that the faculty member or Gumberg Library owns the video weighs in favor of fair use. However, purchasing a video does not confer public performance rights. The faculty member showing a video an online class is basing the use on a claim of fair use and still should follow the expectations of the TEACH Act to the degree possible in their use.

Teaching electronically has different copyright considerations than in person instruction in terms of showing videos. Showing a copyrighted video must comply with fair use, therefore the faculty member needs to determine:

  • That the content is relevant to the objectives of the course.
  • How much of the content must be shown for the teaching use.
  • How to explain and discuss the relevance of the portion shown to the objectives of the course.

The film I want to show is on Netflix. Can I stream this through my Netflix account in the classroom?
Subscription services such as Netflix and Amazon have very detailed membership agreements that may forbid the streaming of subscribed content in a classroom or other public venue. When you agree to the terms of membership, you enter into a contract and the terms of that contract trump any applicable exception in copyright. Therefore, if the membership agreement with Netflix prohibits the showing of the film in a classroom, you are bound by the terms of that agreement even if the face to face teaching exception would otherwise allow it. We encourage instructors who plan to show films as part of their class, particularly when the class is taught online, to investigate the availability of films through Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and other subscription or short term rental streaming services and to require their students to access that content on their own through their own subscription or account.

May I stream videos in my class with Zoom?

Some services allow streaming via Zoom while others may not due to copyright restrictions. You may need to assign students to view the film before class. The library attempts to purchase the license to show films when purchasing them but it is not always possible to do so.

If you have a problem showing a film on Zoom please check the help page on the service’s website to troubleshoot technical problems, for example this page on the Kanopy site. You can also contact the library for assistance at Ask Gumberg.

As we identify issues with streaming via Zoom we will list them here along with any workarounds.

Swank: Streaming videos may not be shown via Zoom because the Digital Rights Management does not allow streaming through a third party streaming service. Instructors could provide a link to the film and assign students them to view it online.

May I stream YouTube videos in my online class with Zoom?

You should follow the fair use guidelines and Teach Act checklist when using YouTube videos.

Best Practices for Avoiding Copyright Infringement

Some strategies that can help you avoid copyright infringement when showing videos in your online class include:

  1. Use only the portion necessary to support your pedagogy. Showing an entire work weighs against fair use, but may be necessary.
  2. If it is necessary to show the entire work, it is advisable to first get permission from the rights holder and/or ask the library to purchase a copy with public performing rights.
  3. Include pauses for discussion/commentary at appropriate points during the program rather than only at the conclusion.
  4. Provide secure/password protected access to the Zoom link to registered students, for example via Blackboard.
  5. Don't record the session.

Streaming Videos Databases Available at Gumberg

These Gumberg databases contain licensed streaming videos that can be shown in online classes:

Academic Video Online (AVON) - contains documentaries, interviews, news, and more.

AccessPharmacy and AccessMedicine - feature modules, videos, lectures audio recording, and animations of medical procedures and examinations.

JoVE - the Journal of Visualized Experiments. This is a peer-reviewed journal that allows you to view videos of scientific experiments.

Kanopy - Offers a wide range of feature films and documentaries from around the world.

Music and Dance Online - multimedia resource covers hundreds of genres and a wide range of content formats - including scores, reference, and high definition audio and video.

Sage Research Methods - features videos on qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods research, among other things.


Resources for Free & Legal Streaming Videos

There are many sources for streaming video content available that students can access on their own. For instance, subscription services Netflix and Hulu offer thousands of documentaries, mainstream film titles, and television programs on a streaming basis for an affordable monthly fee that many students likely already pay.

There are also many online sources for free and legal streaming content:

DVD Collection at Gumberg

Gumberg has an extensive DVD collection. View the DVD Film Collection guide to find feature films and documentaries.

If you cannot find acceptable videos in our databases, you could fill out our Suggest a Purchase form to request purchase of the videos, and perhaps secure a performance license.