Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Films & Video @ ATU Libraries

Everything you wanted to know about physical and streaming collections of films and video for classroom use.

Video and copyright

Please note that librarians cannot give legal advice! 

If you need legal advice, contact a licensed attorney.

The Copyright Act of 1976 governs the rights of reproduction, adaptation, distribution, and public performance and display. Several sections of this act have implications for videocassettes, DVDs and computer file formats.

This page is intended to share guidelines and best practices as related to copyright, face-to-face instruction, digital instruction, fair use, public performance rights, and films in the public domain.

Classroom Use of Videos

Showing a video or DVD in a face-to-face classroom environment is covered under an exception to the public performance right §110 (1) and is lawful.  This is commonly called the Face to Face Teaching Exception.  But it must meet the following criteria:

  • The teaching activities are conducted by a non-profit education institution
  • The performance is in connection with face-to-face teaching activities.
  • The performance takes place in a classroom or similar place devoted to instruction.
  • The person responsible for the performance has no reason to believe that the videotape was unlawfully made.

For online or distance education classes, the TEACH Act allows for the use of clips and video works as long as the access is available only to students enrolled in the course, usually through a learning management system like Blackboard.

For more detailed information, see the following relevant laws and interpretations:

FAQ's on films, education, and libraries

Why are some videos/ DVDs labeled "Home Use Only?" Vendors or publishers want to remind consumers that videos and DVDs should not be shown to the public as this is an exclusive right of the rights holder. There is an exception to the public performance rights that allows non-profit, educational institutions the right to publicly perform videos/DVDs for non-profit, educational purposes.

Can I show an entire DVD in the distance educational classroom via digital networks? The Technology, Education, and Copyright Harmonization (TEACH) Act of 2002 says only portions of DVDs can be screened in the distance classroom. However, fair use may apply when it is necessary to show the entire film to meet the teaching need.

Educators and students use YouTube videos for classroom or assignment purposes. Are these uses lawful? If associated with a license agreement, it may be a breach of contract (but not an infringement of copyright) to use the videos for anything but private, non-commercial use. However, the use of YouTube videos in non-profit, educational settings is wide spread and common. Rights holder have not sued educational institutional for this use, so it may be a use that rights holders tolerate or find relatively harmless since there are no market implications. Using YouTube videos outside of the educational environment, especially for commercial purposes, may require permission.

Are libraries required to purchase videos or DVDs at the higher institutional price? No. Vendors or publishers often use tiered pricing, but the library does not have to pay the higher fee unless it is getting something in return (discounted replacement copies, etc.) Many libraries by their own choice pay the institutional price for ethical reasons, recognizing that many people will use the video and a higher fee may be warranted.

What if I obtain a video or DVD via a license agreement? In general, a license agreement (even those that are non-negotiated such as a "click-on" license) override the copyright law. This means that contract terms will define what you can or cannot do with the copy.

Is it lawful to make film clip compilations for use in the classroom? Yes, this use is a fair use. Screen capture is an easy way to accomplish this. You must be a higher educational faculty member or college student studying media or film studies if you wish to circumvent technological measures employed by the rights holder (such as Content Scrambling System (CSS)).  This rule may change or be expanded based on federal rules determined by the Librarian of Congress in conjunction with the Copyright Office’s triennal rulemaking on the circumvention of technological protection measures. §1201(a)(C).

-Adapted from the American Library Association's Copyright for Libraries page: 

Can I Screencast a Movie Via Webex (Or Zoom)

U.S. Copyright Law permits playing “reasonable and limited” portions of a copyrighted film or video during an online class session, and it permits playing entire films or videos if that qualifies as fair use.  Playing a portion of a film online or the entire film online is allowable if your activity meets the requirements of the TEACH ACT.  Review this TEACH ACT checklist, provided by the University of Texas, to make sure your activity falls within the legal guidelines.

Best Practices:
  • Screencast using a DVD, legally downloaded content, or freely available streaming videos.  Streaming from a personal streaming account can constitute a violation of your user agreement with the vendor.  Additionally, some paid streaming services use technological blocks to circumvent screencasting.
  • Turn off your camera and VPN
  • Do not record the session
  • Cast only to students registered for your course.
  • When sharing your screen via Webex, be sure to select "Optimize for Motion and Video" in the dropdown under Share Content:


Public Performance Rights

What Are Public Performance Rights?

Public Performance Rights (PPR) are special license terms purchased from a film distribution center for the express purpose of showing a film to a public audience.  This includes showing a film for a community event or a club where members of the public are invited.

Do I Need Public Performance Rights?

It depends on the film and the audience.  If you are in a face-to-face classroom environment, you do not need PPR.  For the purpose of online learning, Blackboard spaces for a class are considered a classroom.   If, however, you are showing a film to a general audience like a club or members of the community, you may have to secure a PPR license--even if the purpose is educational. 

Some DVDs available at the library include PPR at the time of purchase, but most of these are documentaries or independent films.  Most commercial films and movies purchased through usual media vendors do not include these rights.  Ask your librarian if a DVD you wish to show includes PPR.

Streaming films available through Kanopy and Academic Video Online includes PPR as long as you do not charge admission to a screening.  However, films available through Swank DO require a separate PPR license to show to the public.  Also, any film in the public domain can be showed to a public audience without restriction.  

Where Do I Find Public Performance Rights?

The following agencies are some of the common who can extend licenses for public performances:

  • Swank Motion Pictures, College Campus Events - While the library currently has a subscription to the Swank Digital Campus for classroom-related streaming, screenings for other campus events must be negotiated separately for a public performance license.
  • Motion Picture Licensing Corporation (MPLC) - Offers public performance rights for most major movie distribution companies.  These licenses can be purchased by any agency, regardless of a campus affiliation.
  • Criterion Pictures - Offers non-theatrical performance rights and 1 year contract to show all films from companies they represent including: Twentieth Century Fox, New Line Cinema/Fine Line Features, Warner Brothers, Tri-Star Pictures, Columbia Pictures, 20th Century Fox, Fox Searchlight, Sony Pictures, Motion International, Astral, Canadian Famous Players, Lions Gate Films, plus many more.  They also offer college campus screening services.
  • Try going directory to the distributor or rights holder, particularly for documentaries or independent films.
Lafayette College Library. (n.d.). Obtaining public performance licenses for films. 
American Library Association. (n.d.) Copyright for libraries: Videos/movies.