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Copyright for Teaching and Instruction

Movie Theater

Full-feature films, documentaries, and broadcasts are creative works that are protected by the US Copyright Act.  Their copyright holders have rights to sell, distribute, show, and display their works and to give permission for these uses by issuing public performance rights (PPRs). When you want to perform, display, or show a film (or another creative work) for teaching purposes or for events, you have to consider its copyright regardless of where you obtained it, if you purchased a copy, or have it through a streaming video service.  However, copyright law has exceptions (also known as exemptions) that allow some use of copyrighted creative works without permission of the copyright owner; this depends on the details of the work and your intended use.

Disclaimer: The FAU Libraries and its faculty, staff, and administration are not attorneys and cannot interpret the law.  This information is provided for educational purposes only and does not substitute for advice from legal counsel.

Originality statement for this Research Guide:  Collins, Perry (n.d.).  Copyright on campus: Showing movies in class and on campus [Library Guide].  University of Florida, George A. Smathers Libraries.  https://guides.uflib.ufl.edu/copyright/video.  Permission to reuse by CC-BY-NC-SA;  some content has been modified and added.

Image source:  Preparing Sagrado Corazon TedTalk by Alan Levine, Pxhere.com.  https://pxhere.com/en/photo/199622.  Permission by CC-BY 2.0.

Face-to-Face

Here are some general tips for showing film in face-to-face and online teaching settings, and also for events: 

  • Face-to-face classroom for teaching or educational purposes:

Physical copy of DVD (your personal copy or one from the library):  the performance or display of the entire work may be allowed without permission due to the In-Class Performance (17 U.S.C. §110) and specifically the Class Use (17 U.S.C. §110(1)) exceptions in US copyright law if it takes place at a non-profit educational institution.

Streaming video (from the library's subscriptions):  most of the titles available through the FAU Libraries have a license for use for classroom and instructional use.  See a streaming video provider's terms and conditions, or title's details if available, for more information.

Streaming video (from a subscription-based service like Amazon or Hulu):  subscription services have very detailed membership agreements that may forbid streaming their content in a classroom or other public venue.  When you agree to the terms of membership, you enter into a contract and the terms of that contract override any applicable exception in copyright.  Therefore, if the membership agreement with a service prohibits showing a film in a classroom, you are bound by the terms of that agreement even if the Class Use exception would otherwise allow it. 

Online or Through LMS

  • Online class or content on a learning management system (LMS): 

Physical copy of DVD (your personal copy or one from the library):  In-Class Performance and Class Use exceptions do not apply to online courses or to content posted in an LMS.  One option is to consider fair use by examining how much of a film is being shown and for what purposes, although showing it online in its entirety may or may not constitute fair use.  Whenever the goals of a course allow, relying on clips or short portions of a film or video for online instruction is preferable.  See Copyright for Teaching & Instruction: Fair Use to see how to make these determinations. 

If it is determined that fair use may not apply for an online setting, you have the option to use a film with a license to stream it or to use a film through a licensed streaming film provider. 

Streaming video (from the library's subscriptions):  most of the titles available through the FAU Libraries have a license for use for classroom and instructional use.  See a title's details for more information.

Streaming video (from a subscription-based service like Amazon or Hulu):  subscription services have very detailed membership agreements that may forbid the streaming of subscribed content in a classroom or other public venue.  When you agree to the terms of membership, you enter into a contract and the terms of that contract override any applicable exception in copyright.  Therefore, if the membership agreement with a service prohibits showing a film in a classroom, you are bound by the terms of that agreement even if the Class Use exception would otherwise allow it. 

Campus Event

  • Campus event:

You may need permission, often in the form of a public performance rights (PPR) license, to perform or show the copyrighted movie or work.

However, FAU units and registered campus organizations may be able to use a streaming video for in-person events if it is in the FAU Libraries' current streaming video collection and has PPRs.  Contact a library liaison for help with this.

Find Films and Streaming Videos

Find Films

If you are a current FAU affiliate, the FAU Libraries provides access to many DVDs and also streaming film with many having teaching/ instructional use permissions.   See the following links to identify titles, or contact a library liaison for assistance:

Do I need public performance rights?

YES -- you need public performance rights if:

  • the showing of the video is open to the public, such as a screening at a public event, OR
  • the showing is in a public space where access is not restricted, such as a a showing of a film for a class but in a venue that is open to anyone to attend, OR
  • persons attending are outside the normal circle of family and friends, such as a showing of a film by a club or organization.

NO -- you do not need public performance rights if:

  • you are privately viewing the film in your home with only family and friends in attendance, OR
  • you are an instructor showing the film in class as part of the course curriculum to officially enrolled students in a face-to-face classroom that is not open to others to attend, OR
  • the film is in the public domain.

Request Public Performance Rights

Public Performing Rights (PPR).  Individuals and organizations are responsible for obtaining public performance rights (PPRs) for all non-exempt showings. There are two ways to obtain PPR, also known as permission or a license:

1.  Contact the copyright holder or its distributor.  A request for a public performance right license can be granted by a copyright holder or by its authorized distributor.

2.   Contact the licensing service representing the particular studio or title.  This will generally be required for all feature length films.  Services vary in the types of licensing offered and the scope of materials represented. Some of the companies that provide (for a fee) public performance licenses are listed below:‚Äč

For additional assistance with locating a licensing agent for a particular movie or film, contact your department's library liaison.

Last updated on Nov 14, 2022 11:51 AM