Video in the Classroom

Since a very high proportion of copyright questions deal with video, this page addresses some of those specific issues. Some material is repeated from other pages within the site.

Issues and definitions

There are two primary issues with displaying videos to groups of people outside your home: public performance rights and permission to make copies of the video. The former is the issue faced in face-to-face classrooms and other "in person" settings while the latter comes up in relation to online and distance learning.

Face-to-face classroom settings

In general, it is not necesssary to obtain public performamce rights in order to show motion pictures or video in a physical classroom setting as part of a specific class under the following circumstances:

  • The video must be shown by the instructor or the instructor's students and attendance must be limited to students and faculty. No one from outside the class may be permitted to attend
  • The instructor and students must be in the same physical space
  • The activity must be a teaching activity and not for recreation or entertainment
  • The activity must be conducted by a nonprofit educational institution
  • The activity must take place in a classroom or other area used as a classroom for systematic instructional activity
  • The copy of the video must have been legally made (not a pirated copy). Material recorded off the air must have been recorded in the past ten days

Distance and online learning settings/streaming video

There are greater restrictions on the use of video for online classes because transmitting video material outside the physical classroom space essentially involves creating and distributing a "copy" of the material in question. A much more stringent set of rules applies.

The 2002 TEACH Act permits the performance or display of a complete nondramatic literary or musical work or reasonable and limited portions of any other work (dramatic and fictional works, etc.), by or in the course of a transmission, if:

  • The copy of the work was legally acquired
  • The performance occurs as part of a systematic, mediated instructional activity by a governmental or nonprofit educational institution
  • The performance is related to the educational content being presented
  • Access is limited to students enrolled in the course or employees of the government institution (through password protection, etc.)
  • The institution providing the material applies technological measures that would "reasonably prevent" retaining a permanent copy of the material (e.g., "streaming" audio or video vs. downloadable files)
  • A copyright notice accompanies the material

The Act further limits digital copies being made under certain circumstances:

  • Copying cannot occur when the copies would violate existing licensing rules for the material
  • Material originally designed as an online educational resource (e.g., academic courseware or instructional materials) cannot be reproduced under the TEACH Act
  • No illegal circumvention of copy protection measures may be involved
  • You may not digitize analog materials (e.g., VHS, LP records, cassette tapes) if an un-copy-protected digital version is already available

This seems to suggest that "ripping" DVDs is not specifically permitted under the TEACH Act because most commercial DVDs are copy-protected. If the contents can be displayed via means that do not circumvent the copy protection, such as with screen-capture software like Camptasia, display of the material in accordance with fair use is permitted. However, the Library of Congress also stated in October, 2015, that "ripping" may be justified in in very specific cases--e.g. where short clips are needed for analysis and when use of screen-capture software like Camptasia would not produce clips of sufficient quality). "Ripping" with permission from the copyright holder would also be permissible. As with many issues surrounding fair use and multimedia materials, often there is no clear-cut answer to the question of "ripping."

The University Libaries provide access to a wide variety of streaming video that is available for classroom use and can also assist with the acquisition of new streaming video for classroom use only under certain conditions:

  • The material cannot be used outside a classroom setting
  • The Libraries will help facilitate the acquisition of streaming film rights only when the purchase is for perpetual ownership of the streaming film (i.e., not for one-time or time-limited licenses). Any acquisitions of streaming films will be purchased through the department's materials budget
  • In light of restricted budgets, if the streaming video isn't available for permanent ownership then the Libraries will attempt to direct the faculty member toward resources for pricing and purchasing options

Using video in non-classroom settings

Showing copyrighted video to a group in any situation other than private home viewing or face-to-face classroom use requires that the producer or distributor of that video assign public performance rights to you. Showing the video without obtaining this very specific form of permission (which usually must be purchased) is against the law and may subject the person showing the video and the university to civil and/or criminal penalties.

Public performace rights are generally not required when:

  • You watch a video in your own home with a small group of friends or family members (i.e., people who regularly visit your home)
  • You show a video in a physical (face-to-face) classroom as noted above

However, you do need to secure public performance rights in most other cases. Some examples of situations where permission is required include:

  • Showing videos to a club or any group other than a class
  • Showing videos in a physical setting that is not generally used for classroom teaching (e.g., library study rooms and collaboratories, meeting rooms in EUC, the Alumni House, etc.)
  • Showing videos under any circumstances where the public could attend
  • Showing videos in a classroom setting when they are not specifically related to the coursework, are shown primarily for entertainment (or any noneducational) purposes, or are open to people not enrolled in the class
  • Showing videos at a party or social event

The University Libraries may be able to assist you with permission to show videos in a classroom or instructional setting. However, you are generally responsible for securing your own permission to show videos in any other circumstances. The University Libraries do not secure public performance rights with video purchases. However, many distributors of educational videos include these rights in the Libraries' purchase price, which means these videos can be shown anywhere to anyone. Starting October 8, 2013, any new video purchased with public performance rights will be listed as such in the Libraries' catalog.

Note that some distributors grant public performance rights for campus use only. The Libraries' catalog will include a note specifying that restriction.

Other frequently asked questions about video

May I use material recorded off the air in the classroom?
Yes, if it was recorded in the past ten days. You may not record a program and show it year after year.

May I make a backup copy of my videos for safekeeping?
In general, no. Only libraries and archives are allowed to do this and only for materials in their own collections under very strict circumstances.

Resources for using video:

Guide to Streaming Video (University Libraries)