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Copyright and Fair Use

An overview of copyright and Fair Use in education.


A list of frequently asked questions about film and fair use, modeled after Guilford College's Fair Use FAQ page.

 I'd like to show 5 holiday movies to students on campus. I own all of the DVDs and would like to show them in the Student Union, free of charge.

These films only include a home license and cannot be shown without a license for public performance rights (PPR.)  To show these films, public performance rights must be secured OR the instructor must use one of GCC's streaming databases in which all films come with PPR.  Check out Kanopy or Films on Demand available through the GCC Library Databases.

 I'd like to show some movies to my class and open it up to other students. If we have a discussion afterwards, does this fall under educational Fair Use?

No. The event constitutes a public performance and PPR must be secured. Fair Use apples only to face-to-face classroom instruction and the film must be integral to the subject of study.

My club would like to have a movie night. Can't we use DVDs from the GCC Library? After all, the library has already purchased those rights, right?

No. DVDs owned by the GCC Library do not automatically come with PPR. A license must be purchased to show DVD copies of any feature films. However, our streaming databases, Kanopy and Films on Demand, do come with PPR. You must use the streaming version of the film to be in compliance. A small number of documentary film DVDs purchased by the library also have PPR. DVDs with PPR are noted in the item's catalog record. Use the "Classic Catalog" and look for the "PPR DVDs" button at the top right of the screen.

I have a personal Netflix account. Can't I just show films from my Netflix account and open the viewing to the campus at wide?

No. Your personal Netflix account (or any other like product) does not come with PPR.

​What about the face to face teaching exception? As an instructor, can't I show anything to students on campus?

No. There are limitations on what an instructor can show and still be in compliance with copyright:

  • the showing must take place in the classroom or a space devoted to instruction.
  • the instructor must be present during the showing
  • the film must be used in a class session only for students enrolled in that class.
  • the copy of the film used must be a lawful copy.
  • the film must be integral to the subject of study, not for purely entertainment purposes.

If the film showing is opened to persons not enrolled in the class, it becomes a public performance and no longer falls under Fair Use.

Is anyone really paying attention to the films college campuses might show for free? What are the penalties for copyright infringement of film?

Penalties vary depending on whether the infringement was "willful" or not. Statutory damages in copyright infringement cases range from $750-$150,000 per infringed work.





TEACH stands for the Technology, Education, and Copyright Harmonization Act, signed in 2002. Use of copyrighted works in distance learning is defined and described in the TEACH Act.  

Rules for Recording and Showing Television Programs

"Nonprofit educational institutions can record television programs trans­mitted by network television and cable stations. The institution can keep the tape for 45 days, but can only use it for instructional purposes during the first ten of the 45 days. After the first ten days, the video recording can only be used for teacher evaluation purposes, to determine whether or not to include the broadcast program in the teaching curriculum. If the teacher wants to keep it within the curriculum, he or she must obtain permission from the copyright owner. The recording may be played once by each individual teacher in the course of related teaching activities in classrooms and similar places devoted to instruction (including formalized home instruction). The recorded program can be repeated once if necessary, although there are no standards for determining what is and is not necessary. After 45 days, the recording must be erased or destroyed.

A video recording of a broadcast can be made only at the request of and only used by individual teachers. A television show may not be regularly recorded in anticipation of requests—for example, a teacher cannot make a standing request to record each episode of a PBS series. Only enough copies may be reproduced from each recording to meet the needs of teachers, and the recordings may not be combined to create teaching compilations. All copies of a recording must include the copyright notice on the broadcast program as recorded and (as mentioned above) must be erased or destroyed after 45 days." Stanford Copyright Guide

MCCCD Legal Guidelines on TV broadcast.

Streaming Video Databases with Public Performance Rights

Does the club you advise want to show a  film to the public? To do so legally, the club must procure a copy of the film with public performance rights (PPR) or purchase a one-time PPR license from the company that owns the rights to the film. PPR can be an expensive enterprise, but the library purchases databases that already come with PPR. Image result for kanopy logoTry Kanopy, Films on Demand, or Filmakers Library. Stay on the right side of copyright law. Streaming video shows best with a wired computer since a wireless connection can buffer or freeze. Contact the GCC Library for more information on streaming video and PPR.

GCC Library's List of DVDs with Public Performance Rights

Codes of Best Practices Media

Creative Commons Attribution, Non-Commercial, Share-Alike License Tag

All guides are available under the CC-BY-NC-SA license.