Showing videos to a virtual class

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  • We have a teacher who is trying to legally show videos and snippets of videos for her US History in Film course. The trouble is that the class is not face-to-face, it is on our county virtual learning platform. Does anyone know that correct procedures to follow to be sure that she is copyright compliant?


    Thanks so much!

  • Greetings,

    I would first refer this teacher to ALA Office of Information Technology and Policy's "Exceptions for Instructors in U.S. Copyright Law" tool.  It is an interactive tool that will help this teacher to come to her own conclusions on showing these videos and video clips via streaming on your school's virtual learning platform.  Here is the link:

    This may seem pedantic but I'd go through the tool for each video or clip I'd want to stream.  Next, I would keep a record of my responses for each video or clip with the tool.  

    For securing permission for films that need to be streamed, I'd go through the following process:

    1. Search the title to see if it is already available to stream from the rights holder or through a vendor.  

    2. If it isn't available to stream from the rights holder then I would search directly for the rights holder and contact them to seek permission to stream the film.  

    I'm sure that others will have further information on your question as well.  

    All best wishes,

    Tammy Ravas

    Associate Professor

    Visual and Performing Arts LIbrarian and Media Coordinator

    Mansfield Library

    University of Montana

    (p.s. I am not a lawyer and my response is for informational purposes only.) 


  • I would not be concerned about this use.  The Technology Education and Copyright Harmonization Act (TEACH Act) was passed by Congress in 2002 to address copyright for the "distance education" classroom. This is section 110(2) of the copyright law.  One thing it does say is that portions of films can be used in the distance ed classroom without prior authorization.  So you are good to go!!

    The next thing "what about entire films?  can you show an entire film for distance education?"  The argument that the use is fair is strong when the screening is necessary to meet the teaching goal.  if you are teaching a film class, you probably need to show a few films!! So more good news!!

    What Tammy (above) refers to is the developing market for streaming media acquired through license agreements.  If the videos are lawfully acquired, (and not merely licensed) there is no problem. 

    To complicate matters, some videos are only available with an end user agreement (EULA) that restricts use to personal, non-commercial uses.  We have been working with media companies asking that they provide libraries with an institutional license but they don't really care/  They think the library market is not that big.  Also re-negotiating with rights holders to allow for certain public performance would be a lot of bother for them.

    If this is the case -- the faculty member has films only available on NetFlix or Amazon, you must make a decision whether you will screen the film regardless of what the EULA says. I tend to think "yes you should screen that film with the EULA."  This is not legal advice, and many attorneys probably would not advise this, my thinking is "what are you going to do?" You cannot negotiate a license with Amazon.  In general, when the market does not provide a product to a willing buyer, that's a sign that an exception should be made.  (of course, licenses don't include these nuances, but nonetheless, I would move forward).  

    In reality, many people don't even know they licensed a video when they click on the download button.  Many people do these public performances and nothing terrible has happened.  Our counsel says that the companies have better things to do than worry about this "small fry" type of thing.

    I could go on, but I think we answered your question.


    -Carrie Russell

    ALA Office for Information Technology Policy




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