Skip to Main Content

Copyright & Fair Use Guide

Determining Copyright Status

Showing Movies in Class and On Campus

When showing a film, video, or television program on campus it is important to consider the copyright owners and their public performance rights (PPR).

When shown in a classroom for educational purposes it is allowed without permission under the face to face teaching exemption at 17 U.S.C. §110(1). If showing something in an online class it could be considered fair use, depending on the length of film shown and on the purpose of the presentation. A streaming license is required if fair use does not apply, or the film can be shown through a licensed streaming film provider. 

When shown in an event setting as part of a club or organization a public performance rights license is required. The individual or organization is responsible for obtaining the PPR which can be obtained in two ways:

  1. From the copyright holder directly or through the distributor
  2. From the licensing service representing the specific studio or film. (Most feature length films will need to be done this way.)

Notes on Fair Use

Certain subscription services such as Netflix and Amazon include in their membership agreements that the films cannot be use in a class or shown in a public setting. This applies even if the face to face teaching exemption would be in effect. 

If a club or organization is putting on an event that is educational in nature (such as having a discussion after the showing), it could fall under fair use. 

Free and Legal Streaming Videos

Netflix, Hulu, iTunes, and Amazon Prime are all platforms available for streaming either as subscription services or as rental agencies. Most students will either have their own account or access to an account, so they would be able to watch a video class on their own time instead of being required to get the PPR to show it in a classroom setting. 

Locating Images & Documents for Use in Class

It is often assumed that when materials on the web are not marked with a copyright license or statement, they are not protected by copyright.  However, the opposite is actually true.  Creative materials are automatically protected from the moment of creation.  The resources below will help you to find materials that are clearly marked with a copyright license detailing if and how the items can be reused.  Be sure to read the licenses carefully and to comply with their requirements.