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Copyright on Campus: Showing Movies on Campus

A user-friendly guide to understanding copyright and fair use issues at Bennington College.

Videos and Film in Course Instruction

Would I be able to digitize and stream a DVD I own for my students to view online?

No. It is illegal to reformat media to enable streaming of its content. Proper licensing must be obtained if you wish to stream any form of media on a website or course management system.

May I show in my class a film I have rented from Netflix or some other online provider?

DVDs from a rental service or their online equivalents are designated for "Home Use Only", indicating a licensing agreement with the copyright holder. Nevertheless, Fair Use allows for these films to be shown in face-to-face teaching situations. See the flow chart on the right for help in determining if your situation applies. 

Is it legal to make a copy of a rental film in order to use it again later?

No, that would infringe on the right licensed to the rental agency.

Queuing and changing DVDs to show short sections can be awkward in class. May I edit together portions of videos?

It depends. If you are using very brief clips from several videos (NOT off-air tapes) and they are for a one-time use, this would probably be permissible under fair use. If you are using several segments from the same video and/or expect to use it in subsequent semesters, then permission would need to be obtained.

May an auditorium or other large space be used to show a film labeled "Home Use Only" to a class or several sections of a course?

Yes, so long as the presentation is not open to the public or the college community at large AND is part of the syllabus. Presentation for entertainment purposes requires permission or a license.

How does the "face-to-face" instruction requirement affect the practice of placing films on reserve and assigning them to students?

Library course reserves are considered an extension of the classroom, so Fair Use principles apply to materials placed on reserve.

This film/video is out of print and deteriorating rapidly, may we make a copy?

Yes. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 allows libraries to make up to three copies of video and print materials for archival purposes.

How to Decide