Instructor brings copy of a program he recorded on Cable TV...

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  • Hi,
    A professor would like to place a copy of a program he recorded on Cable TV (from the Weather Channel) on reserves and we were wondering if there are any restrictions, and if this is legal?

  • Hi, Nuria.

    Your question touches upon several complexities. I am not a lawyer, but I will share the following thoughts. Perhaps this response will elicit further comment by others, especially those who have worked with recorded television programs.

    To begin, it would help for us to know more about your situation. Does the professor intend for students to view the copy inside the library, or does s/he want the program to be distributed to students electronically?

    The guidelines at the URL below address the first scenario. They were formed in 1979 and address the use of off-air recordings “in classrooms and similar places devoted to instruction and for home-bound instruction.” Please note that while guidelines provide parameters to consider, they are NOT law. (see page 22)

    If the program is to be available electronically through the library, it could be said that the library is distributing the work, which is an exclusive right of the copyright holder. The library can look to fair use as an exception to this exclusive right. Most of the literature I found about e-reserves refers to text and still images. Moving forward nonetheless, I would make a rough analysis as follows:

    1. Purpose of use – educational (This favors fair use.)
    2. Nature of work – I’ll assume it’s a factual work, since the program was produced by the weather channel. (This favors fair use.)
    3. Amount of work used - Unknown
    4. Effect on market of work – I would say that the effect on the market of this work is negligible. (Other opinions?)

    My analysis favors making the weather channel program available digitally, but the issue doesn’t end there. You can strengthen the argument for fair use by taking a few precautions:

    1. Using technological protection measures, you can limit access to the Weather Channel program to students in a particular class.
    2. You can limit the length of time that the Weather Channel program is available to students. (In other words, you might not leave it online for the duration of the course.)
    3. You can restrict the amount of the program that students can access.
    4. You might request permission from the Weather Channel for this use.

    One final note: This discussion has focused on placing the Weather Channel program on *reserve*. Should the professor wish to incorporate it in a *distance education* course, you might examine the TEACH Act. You must have a variety of measures in place to comply with the TEACH Act, but it has the benefit of being law. Kenny Crews has written a good discussion of the TEACH Act and it requirements. It is online at

    I hope these comments are helpful. Other thoughts?

  • My first thought was that this would be okay.There are guidelines (not law) about how long it can be shown (10 days), how long it can be retained (45 days) and how many times it can be shown (2), but as I said, these are guidelines, not law. However, I find that 9 out of 10 universities do not allow off air tapes to be placed on reserve; I am assuming because of the 2 views guideline.
    I still think an argument could be made for placing it on reserve with appropriate copyright labels and warnings (and removing it at the end of 10 days to be safe), but I am apparently in a minority on this opinion. Anyone else with more reasoning on this?

    I took the question to mean placing a physical copy on reserve to be checked out by students.
  • One further point - the guidelines for off-air broadcasting only apply to "free tv" that is broadcast channel programming (NBC, CBS, ABC, PBS) not cable.

    I think there is a good argument for fair use if the tape were going to be used specifically for teaching. But if the professor wants to use this tape year and after year, investigate if the Weather Channel sells their programming. If the tape is not available for sale, I would tend to ask permission to make a copy, telling the rights holder of how you intend to use the copy (for teaching, circulation, reserves, etc).

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