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Copyright & Fair Use: In Class Teaching : Media Resources

Media Librarian

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Farhad Moshiri
Library-Room 205
Media Collection, Music Collection, Copyright. Library liaison to Music Department.


These rules have been made based on best practices of Section 107 (Fair Use) of the Copyright law recommended by American Library Association (ALA) and Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL). It means if you follow these rules, you do not need to ask for permission from the copyright holder of the item you want to use. In case you need to use more than the amount described under these rules, you always have the option to ask for permission from the copyright holder, usually the publisher or the author/creator of the work.

Can I play/show audio/video materials in my class?

Yes. But you’re limited to:

·         Make sure the audio/video material is legally recorded (it is not a copy) and acquired. Please see the rules on off-the-air recorded video programs below.

·         Make sure the audio/video material is closely related to the course content and is not used for entertainment.

·         Make sure that the attendees in the classroom are all officially registered for the course and there are no guests and visitors in the class (excluding guest instructors.)


Can I show video programs from online streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, Vimeo, etc. using my personal account?

No. Your account is a personal account for home use only. You cannot use your own account for institutional use. It is not actually a copyright issue. It is against your agreement with the service provider. It falls into contract law. 

Streaming While Teaching: The Legality of Using Personal Streaming Video Accounts for the Classroom / Jonathan I. Ezor Touro Law Center (2013)


Recently, I have seen very good documentaries and movies on Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and other streaming services. Why the library cannot subscribe to these services so I can show these programs to my students in class or ask them to watch them at home?

Unfortunately, these services have not come up with a subscription model for educational institutions yet. The only model for subscription they offer is for individuals for personal use. Many libraries have this problem. In most cases these streaming services even do not release their programs on DVD so the libraries can purchase them.

In addition, you're not allowed even to use short clips of such streaming videos in you class. Copyright law (DMCA ACT) allows you to make short clips of DVDs for you class use, both face-to-face physical classroom setting or online. But with streaming video platforms such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, etc. you cannot do that because of contract law that supersedes copyright law.


Why is it acceptable that I show a video in my class that I own or rented from a video store, but I cannot access my personal account to a streaming video service such as Netflix in class?

There are many legal technicalities in the copyright law as in many laws that do not make sense to the lay person. This is a case of the difference between "First-Sale Doctrine" in copyright law and "Contract Law". 

According to the law, renting a DVD from a video store is like purchasing it for a short period of time. You actually own the item for that period of time. You do not sign any agreement or contract with the store on how you use the item. But, in case of Netflix or other streaming video services, you actually do not purchase anything. You pay for accessing the service they provide and you sign a contract (when you click on "I accept terms and conditions") with the service provider. You are bond to the content of the contract. If your contract states that the service is for personal home use only, you cannot use the service for educational purposes at an educational institution. Remember, contract law supersedes copyright law.


What about free online services? Can I show their programs in class?

Make sure these online services are legitimate. Read their terms of use. If they restrict their services to personal use and ask you to agree with their terms, you cannot show their programs in class even if your use is not for commercial purposes.


What about YouTube? Can I show videos from YouTube in my class?

YouTube contains millions of videos. Some of them are copyright protected. YouTube claims that its staff are trying hard to remove copyrighted materials posted illegally from its website. But be careful and use common sense in using YouTube videos since according to DMCA, users of copyrighted materials are responsible for what they use not the platform staff where videos are located. The safest way to use YouTube videos is to use "Creative Commons" option under the "Filter" in your search results.


What about video programs I have recorded off the TV at home? Can I show those in class?

Make sure they are recorded off TV stations available free of charge through antenna channels. You cannot record programs off cable or satellite TV that requires subscription unless the channel recorded is also available for free through antenna network. You can keep and use a program recorded in this way for only 45 days since its broadcast (Kastenmeire Guidelines, 1979 : Page 23) . You have to use the recorded program once within the first 10 days after recording it. You can use it once more before 45 days limit ends. Remember these rules applies only to the programs that the TV station is the copyright holder. You cannot apply these rules to programs such as feature films (movies) that the TV station has shown and does not hold the copyright to them.


My classroom does not have a VCR to play VHS tapes. Can I transfer my old VHS tape to a DVD and use it in my class?

If you are using  a short clip, you can transfer it to another format (DMCA). Change of format for the entire video program is not allowed without the copyright holder's permission or if the program is already available in the market in a more advanced format. Change of format for the entire video program is permitted only in case of obsolete formats (Title 17-Section 108 of the Copyright Law) for preservation purposes only (see below).


Copies for preservation: Copyright law allows libraries in educational institutions to make a digital copy (DVD for video or CD for audio) of a deteriorating material (VHS tape, audio cassette tape, etc.) no longer available in any format in the market for preservation purposes only. The digitized materials cannot leave the library premises (do not circulate). This process is only for archival purposes.


Staff LADR