Skip to Main Content

Fair Use and Copyright in the Classroom: Using Videos in the Classroom

Showing Videos in the Classroom

The rules governing the showing of copyrighted videos are the same as those governing any other copyrighted performance.

A properly purchased or rented videotape may be used in a classroom setting in conjunction with face-to-face instruction.  Care should be taken to comply with any special terms in the rental or purchase agreements. When streaming a video from a service you personally subscribe to such as Netflix, HULU, etc., check the licensing terms.  They take precedence over copyright and fair use.

These criteria must be met:

1. Must take place in a classroom or place of instruction in a nonprofit educational institution.

2. Only teacher and students can be in attendance.

3. Must be a face-to-face teaching activity.

4. Copy of the video must be legally made or acquired.

If all these criteria are met, a film can be shown even if labels like "For Home Use Only" appear on the package. 

Using Videos in an Online Course

The Technology, Education, and Copyright Harmonization (TEACH) Act of 2002 extends many privileges to faculty teaching in an online context, for example, when using a learning management system or in a distance-education context.

The TEACH Act defines both the array of resources and the amount of those resources that can be transmitted from one location to another in the context of an online course. The following describes the conditions under which copyrighted works can be used under the TEACH Act.

  1. The work transmitted is lawfully made or acquired. 
  2. The work transmitted is not marketed for instructional purposes.
  3. The work transmitted is integral to a class session.
  4. The work transmitted is part of instructional activities supervised by the instructor.
  5. The nature and portion of the transmitted work accord with the following guidelines:
    1. a non-dramatic literary work (You may use all.)
    2. a non-dramatic musical work (You may use all.)
    3. a performance of any other work, including dramatic works and audiovisual works (You may use only reasonable and limited portions or a display in an amount comparable to that which is typically displayed in the course of a live classroom session.)
  6. Reception of the work is limited to students enrolled in the course.
  7. Students' retention of the work is for no longer than the limit of a class session.
  8. Reasonable downstream controls have been instituted to discourage or prevent subsequent dissemination beyond the student recipient.
  9. For conversions of a copyrighted work from analog to digital form
    1. no digital version is available to the institution, or
    2. a digital version is available but technologically protected.
  10. A copyright warning notice is present on the transmitted work.


Videos Multimedia Projects/Presentations

Multimedia works are created by combining copyrighted media elements such as motion media, music, other sounds, graphics, and text. It is recommended that you use only small portions of other people's works.

  • Motion media: Up to 10% or three minutes, whichever is less.
  • Text: Up to 10% or 1,000 words, whichever is less. (The limits on poetry are more restrictive.)
  • Music: Up to 10% of an individual copyrighted musical composition, or up to 10% of a copyrighted musical composition embodied on a sound recording. However, no more than 30 seconds may be used without gaining permission from the copyright owner or licensing collective.
  • Illustrations and photos: Under the guidelines, "a photograph or illustration may be used in its entirety, but no more than five images by one artist or photographer may be incorporated into any one multimedia program. From a published collective work, not more than 10% or 15 images, whichever is less, may be used."
  • Numerical Data Sets: Up to 10% or 2,5000 fields or cell entries, whichever is less.

The following guidelines allow you to use multimedia without permission of lawfully acquired copyrighted works.

  • You may incorporate portions of copyrighted works when creating your own multimedia projects for educational or instructional (not commercial) purposes.
    • Students may incorporate "portions" of copyrighted materials for a project in a specific course.
    • Students may display their own projects, use them in their portfolio, use the project for a job interview or as supporting materials in an application for school.
    • Faculty may use their projects for class assignments, curriculum materials, remote instruction, for conferences, presentations, or workshops, or for their professional portfolio.
  • Give attribution to the original source of all copyrighted material used.
  • Place a copyright notice on the opening screen of the multimedia program and accompanying print material that "certain materials are included under fair use exemption of the U.S. Copyright Law...and are restricted from further use."
  • Fair use of the copyrighted materials expires at the end of two years. To use the project again you need to obtain permission.

Contact MU Libraries
2807 North Glebe Road, Arlington, Virginia 22207
Login to LibApps