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Copyright, Fair Use and Plagiarism: Videos

Resources explaining and giving samples of intellectual property issues, including the TEACH ACT

Video Copyright FAQ


Most films and videos are under copyright. Use is subject to copyright restrictions. These guidelines attempt to share with faculty and students how they may use films and videos legally.



Classroom Use


Use of film and video is permitted in an educational institution so long as all of the following conditions are met:

1. The film must be shown as part of the instructional program.
2. The film must be shown by students, instructors, or guest lecturers, and can only be shown to students and educators.
3. The film must be shown either in a classroom or other school location devoted to instruction.
4. The film must be shown either in a face‐to‐face setting or where students and teacher(s) are in the same building or general area.
5. The film shown must be a legitimate copy, with the copyright notice included.
6. Films or videos may not be used for entertainment or recreation.

Embedding/Linking to Online Video

Linking to video that is already available online – such as embedding a YouTube video in your Canvas course or other web site – apparently often does not qualify as a copyright violation.

An embedded YouTube video is just a link; no copy of the video is being stored on your server. A 2007 legal precedent in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals seems to provide good support that this kind of embedding does not expose you to liability for direct infringement.

However, you should still use caution and common sense. If you link to a video that you know is infringing, or that any reasonable person would have known is infringing, and if your link materially contributes to the infringement, then you could be liable for contributory infringement ‐‐ a kind of "aiding and abetting" liability.

Frequently Asked Questions About Video Use

May I purchase or rent a film, and use it in my class?

Yes. Use of such recordings is considered "fair use" in a face‐to‐face teaching situation, assuming the above mentioned conditions for “classroom use” are met


Is it permissible to make a copy of a rental video in order to use it again later?

No. That would infringe on the rights licensed to the rental agency.


May I use an auditorium or other large space to show a video labeled "Home Use Only?"

Yes, so long as the performance is not open to the public and is for an instructional purpose
within the structure of the course.


May I record a copyrighted television program in its entirety, and show it to my class?

Yes, with restrictions. Congress has created a special exception about this practice, for nonprofit educational institutions. Off‐air recordings may be used by individual teachers in the course of relevant teaching activities, and repeated once only when instructional reinforcement is necessary, in classrooms and similar places devoted to instruction, during the first ten school days after the program was recorded. The recording must contain a notice of copyright. It may not be retained longer than 45 days.

Can students make copies of videos a professor has placed on library reserve?

Copying an entire video would be infringement. When placing the video on reserve it is intended that the student either view it in the library or take it home for viewing.

Can a university‐owned video be copied for reserves?

It’s not likely that this copying would qualify as “fair use.” Generally, permission for the copying should be obtained from the copyright owner.

May I make a copy of my videos for safekeeping?

No. This practice with audio and videotapes is a violation of the copyright law. Many people believe that it is permissible to make a backup copy of a videotape or audiotape, especially where the tape will be used frequently, so that if it is damaged, destroyed, or lost, the backup will be available to take its place. But this is not the case.

Public Domain Videos

The sites listed below contain movies commonly thought to be in the public domain, and works
their owners are willing to let be distributed. “Public Domain” refers to the body of creative
works and knowledge in which no person, government or organization has any proprietary
interest such as a copyright. There is some risk, however, because of the difficulty of identifying
works that truly do not have any proprietary interests.