Copyrighted Video

General Information

Possession of a film or video does not confer the right to show the work. The copyright owner specifies, at the time of purchase or rental, the circumstances under which a film or video may be “performed.” For example, videocassettes from a video rental outlet usually bear a label that specifies “Home Use Only.” Showings of such videos may not be advertised nor may they take place in large venues such as Young 101, Vahlkamp, Weisiger, or even classrooms.  Advertised or public showings (not associated with a class assignment) require explicit license, either associated with the video or arranged through a video rental service.  However, whatever their labeling or licensing, use of these media is permitted in an educational institution so long as certain conditions are met.

Most uses of lawfully owned or rented copies of video recordings in face-to-face teaching activities in the classroom or via dissemination through a digital network as an integral part of a class session are permitted provided certain conditions are met.  The relationship between the video and the course must be explicit.  Videos, even in a face-to-face classroom setting, may not be used for entertainment or recreation, whatever their intellectual content.

Please visit the following interactive guide to help you determine if your use is a fair use, when using copyrighted media in your project.

Fair Use of Video in the Classroom

Section 110 (1) of the Copyright Act of 1976 specifies that the following is permitted:

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…and that the person responsible for the performance knew or had reason to believe was not lawfully made.

Additional text of the Copyright Act and portions of House Report (94-1476) combine to provide the following more detailed list of conditions under which copyrighted motion media may be used [from What Educators Should Know About Copyright , by Virginia M. Helm; Bloomington , IN , Phi Delta Kappa Educational Foundation, 1986 ]:

·         The use must be a part of the instructional program.

·         They must be shown by instructors, students, or guest lecturers.

·         The use must be in a classroom or similar place of instruction.

·         The use must be in the course of face-to-face teaching activities or where students and teacher(s) are in the same building or general area.

·         They must be shown only to students and educators.

·         The video or film must be a legitimate (that is, not illegally reproduced) copy with the copyright notice included.

Fair Use Outside of the Classroom (Club Meetings, Dorm Lounges, etc.)

Besides use in classrooms, video media (videocassettes, videodiscs, and DVDs) that are owned by the College may ordinarily be viewed by students, faculty, or staff at workstations or in small-group rooms in the Library’s screening room. These videos may also be viewed at home (e.g., in a dormitory room) as long as no more than a few friends are involved.

Larger audiences, such as groups that might assemble in a residence hall living room, require explicit permission from the copyright owner for “public performance” rights. No fees for viewing a video may be charged even when performance rights are obtained.  Remember, no advertisements can be posted for such viewings.

Copying of Videos and Off-Air Recording of Broadcasts, Including Satellite TV

Copying of any video media without the copyright owner's permission is illegal. An exception is made for libraries to replace a work that is lost or damaged if another copy cannot be obtained at a fair price (section 108 of the Copyright Act of 1976).

Licenses may be obtained for copying and off-air recording. Absent a formal agreement, the “Guidelines for Off-the-Air Recording of Broadcast Programming for Educational Purposes,” an official part of the Copyright Act's legislative history, applies to most off-air recording [from Virginia M. Helm, supra ]:

1.      Videotaped recordings may be kept for no more than 45 calendar days after the recording date, at which time the tapes must be erased.

2.      Videotaped recordings may be shown to students only within the first 10 school days of the 45-day retention period.

3.      Off-air recordings must be made only at the request of an individual instructor for instructional purposes, not by staff in anticipation of later requests.

4.      The recordings are to be shown to students no more than two times during the 10-day period, and the second time only for necessary instructional reinforcement.

5.      The taped recordings may be viewed after the 10-day period only by instructors for evaluation purposes, that is, to determine whether to include the broadcast program in the curriculum in the future.

6.      If several instructors request videotaping of the same program, duplicate copies are permitted to meet the need; all copies are subject to the same restrictions as the original recording.

7.      The off-air recordings may not be physically or electronically altered or combined with others to form anthologies, but they need not necessarily be used or shown in their entirety.

8.      All copies of off-air recordings must include the copyright notice on the broadcast program as recorded.

9.      These guidelines apply only to nonprofit educational institutions, which are further expected to establish appropriate control procedures to maintain the integrity of these guidelines.   Certain public broadcasting services (Public Broadcasting Service, Public Television Library, Great Plains National Instructional Television Library, and Agency for Instructional Television) impose similar restrictions but limit use to only the seven-day period following local broadcast [Virginia M. Helm, supra ]. The “Cable in the Classroom” web site ( provides further information regarding the copyright policies of other cable-television networks with respect to educational use.  

Classroom Guidelines

Time Limitations

Educators may use educational multimedia projects created for educational purposes (either by the instructor or by a student) for teaching courses, for a period of up to two years after the first instructional use with a class. Use beyond that time period, even for educational purposes, requires permission for each copyrighted portion incorporated in the production.  If a faculty member would like to retain a copy of a student project, s/he must obtain a release form from the student author of the project.

Students may use their educational multimedia projects in perpetuity only for job or graduate school interviews, as part of a portfolio of work created.

Portion Limitations

The Conference on Fair Use (CONFU) established a set of Classroom Guidelines to help educational institutions determine a general set of rules that spell out how much of a particular work tends to fall under the fair use protection.  The Classroom Guidelines for materials used in a multimedia project are listed below.  Note: these are not written in any law and are suggestions for amounts that courts tend to view as acceptable.  Each case must be evaluated according to the four factors of Fair Use. (See the Fair Use Checklist).

These limits apply cumulatively to each educator's or student's multimedia project(s) for the same academic semester, cycle or term. All students should be instructed about the reasons for copyright protection and the need to follow these guidelines.

Motion Media

Up to 10% or 3 minutes, whichever is less, in the aggregate of a copyrighted motion media work may be reproduced or otherwise incorporated as part of a multimedia project .

Text Material

Up to 10% or 1000 words, whichever is less, in the aggregate of a copyrighted work consisting of text material may be reproduced or otherwise incorporated as part of a multimedia project.

An entire poem of less than 250 words may be used, but no more than three poems by one poet, or five poems by different poets from any anthology may be used. For poems of greater length, 250 words may be used but no more than three excerpts by a poet, or five excerpts by different poets from a single anthology may be used.

Music, Lyrics, and Music Video

Up to 10%, but in no event more than 30 seconds, of the music and lyrics from an individual musical work (or in the aggregate of extracts from an individual work), whether the musical work is embodied in copies, or audio or audiovisual works, may be reproduced or otherwise incorporated as a part of a multimedia project .

Any alterations to a musical work shall not change the basic melody or the fundamental character of the work.

Illustrations and Photographs

The reproduction or incorporation of photographs and illustrations is more difficult to define with regard to fair use because fair use usually precludes the use of an entire work. Under these guidelines a photograph or illustration may be used in its entirety but no more than 5 images by an artist or photographer may be reproduced or otherwise incorporated as part of an educational multimedia project.

When using photographs and illustrations from a published collective work, not more than 10% or 15 images, whichever is less, may be reproduced or otherwise incorporated as part of an educational multimedia project.

Numerical Data Sets

Up to 10% or 2500 fields or cell entries, whichever is less, from a copyrighted database or data table may be reproduced or otherwise incorporated as part of a educational multimedia project.

A field entry is defined as a specific item of information, such as a name or Social Security number, in a record of a database file. A cell entry is defined as the intersection where a row and a column meet on a spreadsheet.

Copying and Distribution Limitations

Only a limited number of copies, including the original, may be made of an educator's educational multimedia project. There may be no more than two use copies, only one of which may be placed on reserve.

An additional copy may be made for preservation purposes but may only be used or copied to replace a use copy that has been lost, stolen, or damaged. In the case of a jointly created educational multimedia project, each principal creator may retain one copy but only for educational purposes.

Duplication of Multimedia Projects Beyond Limitations Listed in These Guidelines

Even for educational uses, educators and students must seek individual permissions for all copyrighted works incorporated in their personally created educational multimedia projects before replicating or distributing beyond the limitations listed above.

Distribution of Multimedia Projects Beyond Limitations Listed in These Guidelines

Educators and students may not use their personally created educational multimedia projects over electronic networks, unless those uses fall under the TEACH Act, without obtaining permissions for all copyrighted works incorporated in the program.

Non-Educational or Commercial Multimedia Projects

Staff members, educators, and students must seek individual permissions (licenses) before using copyrighted works in all non-educational, recreational, or educational multimedia projects intended for commercial reproduction and distribution.  For example, if the basketball coaches would like to put together a slideshow of personally-owned images set to music purchased online or on CD to show at a celebratory banquet, they must obtain permission to use any songs or portions of songs, since the music is copyrighted.  They would also need to obtain the mechanical rights, if they decide to make duplicate copies of the CDs for the basketball players.

Frequently Asked Questions

May I purchase or rent a film from the local video store and use it in my class?

Tapes or discs from a video store are labeled "Home Use Only," indicating a licensing agreement with the copyright holder. Nevertheless, use of such tapes is considered "fair use" in a face-to-face teaching situation. Videos marked "Home Use Only" may also be placed on reserve and viewed in Library’s Screening Room if they are used strictly for instructional purposes and not entertainment.

Is it permissible to make a copy of a rental video in order to use it again, later?

No. That would infringe on the rights licensed to the rental agency. (Absent reasonable return for service, rental agencies cannot survive.)

I own a copy of “Pride and Prejudice.”  Can I loan it to the English Club to watch one night?

Although you own a copy of the film, you do not own the distribution rights for it and can only view your copy of the film under the licensing agreement that shows up at the beginning of the film.  You are allowed to loan your copy of a film to another person and are even allowed to sell your copy of the film (not a duplicate).  You cannot show the film to a large audience, however, since that falls outside of the “home-viewing” part of the license agreement.  Such a use would infringe upon the distributor’s right to earn money off of the purchase and/or rental fees likely to have been collected.

May I make a copy of my videotapes for safekeeping, in case a tape might break?

Many people believe that it is permissible to make a backup copy of a videotape or audio tape, especially where the tape will be used frequently, so that if it is damaged, destroyed, or lost, the backup will be available to take its place. For example, a lending library may wish to make copies of its video and audio tapes routinely and lend out the copy or the original, retaining the other for backup purposes. In fact, only computer programs may be copied for backup purposes. This practice with audio and video tapes is a violation of the copyright law.

Can an auditorium or other large space be used to show a video labeled "Home Use Only" to a class?

Yes, as long as the performance is not open to the public and is for an instructional purpose within the structure of the course. Use for entertainment is prohibited.

If the College already owns a videotape and it has been used in the classroom, can I have it shown on the campus video network?

It depends.  Under the Teach Act, you can show a film across a campus video network, if it can be limited to just the students enrolled in the course.  Otherwise, you can’t unless explicit permission for closed-circuit or network distribution has been obtained.

How does the "face-to-face" instruction requirement affect the practice of putting video tapes on reserve and assigning them to students?

When purchasing video media, the College seeks permission to allow this type of use. A label affixed to the medium will specify when such permission has been granted.

Can a college-owned video be copied for reserves, so that more than 1 student can watch it at a time?

Not unless permission for the copying has been obtained from the copyright owner.  

May a club or other group show a video obtained from a local video store?

No. However, many film/video libraries and distributors offer the required "public performance rights" that are included in a higher rental fee.

What if a student rents a video from a video store and views it with a few friends in her dormitory living room?

Experts disagree! But since access to dormitories is limited to acquaintances of students, this would seem to be comparable to "home use."

I don't have time to preview this video right now, and it's due to be returned to the vendor. Can Instructional Resources copy it for me?

No. Preview videos may not be copied. But in an emergency Instructional Resources can ask the vendor for an extended preview period.

Can a video tape be made of a film that is out of print and deteriorating rapidly?

Although the film is out of print, permission of the copyright owner is nonetheless required.

Can I buy a video abroad (in PAL or SECAM format) and make a copy in NTSC format for me to use in class or watch at home?  

No, if that video is available in NTSC format. If the video is unavailable in NTSC format, experts disagree on the permissibility of the copying.  

Can I videotape a TV show and digitize it for delivery online?  

No. You may videotape a TV program and show it in class, but you cannot make it available to the general public online, because such practice infringes on the distribution rights to sell the show in question.

Does distribution to ACS schools change the copyright issues from classroom use at Centre?

Yes.  If you will be distributing this work, you should obtain permission to use the images.

How do I start finding out who possibly "owns" copies of these materials that portray illuminated manuscripts from the Middle Ages?

Since there is no central copyright database, it can be difficult to find the owner of a particular copyright.  However, you are still responsible for obtaining permission before using an image.  In the situation you describe you have two options: 1) use only commercially available images, images in the public domain, or images with published copyright information, or 2) make a reasonable effort to find the copyright holder and document your efforts.