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Copyright: Video Use

Video Use in the Classroom and on Campus

Do you want to perform, display, or show a film, video, or TV program in the classroom or on campus?  Regardless of whether it's part of a course, group or club activity, or an organization event, you must consider copyright. This consideration must be made independently of who owns the video or where you obtained it. Copyright owners have certain rights, which are commonly known as public performance rights (PPR)

When you're using a film, video, or TV program in a classroom or for educational purposes, such performance or display of the entire work may be allowed without permission under the face to face teaching exception at 17 U.S.C. §110(1).

When showing a film in an online class, it may be considered fair use depending on how much of the film is being shown and for what purposes. If fair use does not apply, you will need a streaming license or view the film through a licensed streaming film provider. 

In most other cases, especially when the film, video, or TV program is being shown as part of an event, you need permission--often in the form of a public performance rights (PPR) license--to perform or show the copyrighted work.

Thanks to the University of Florida Library system whose guide on Copyright on Campus provided the basis for information on this page.

When Do You Need Public Performance Rights (PPR)?

YES -- you need public performance rights:

  • If the showing of the video is open to the public, such as a screening at a public event, OR
  • If the showing is in a public space where access is not restricted, such as a a showing of a film for a class but in a venue that is open to anyone to attend, OR
  • If persons attending are outside the normal circle of family and friends, such as a showing of a film by a club or organization.

NO -- you do not need public performance rights:

  • If you are privately viewing the film in your home with only family and friends in attendance, OR
  • If you are an instructor showing the film in class as part of the course curriculum to officially enrolled students in a classroom that is not open to others to attend, OR
  • If the film is in the public domain.

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. 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.

How to Obtain Public Performance Rights

Individuals and organizations are responsible for obtaining public performance rights for all non-exempt showings. There are two ways to obtain PPR, also known as permission or a license:

1.   Contact the copyright holder directly, or contact the distributor.  If the distributor has the authority from the copyright owner to grant licenses, to purchase public performance rights or to request permission for a particular public performance use, permission or license can be directly obtained.

2.   Contact the licensing service representing the particular studio or title. Services vary in the types of licensing offered and the scope of materials represented. 

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