Possession of a film or video does not automatically confer the right to show the work. The copyright owner specifies, at the time of purchase or rental, the circumstances in which a film or video may be “performed.” For example, DVDs from Netflix or a rental kiosk might have be labeled “For Home Use Only” or have a screen preceding the movie which states something similar.

However, whatever their labeling or licensing, use of these media is permitted in an educational institution so long as certain conditions are met. See our Film & Video Decision Tool for help.

Overview of the Law

Section 110 (1) of the Copyright Act of 1976 specifies that the following is permitted:

  • Performance or display of a work by instructors or pupils in the course of face-to-face teaching activities of a nonprofit educational institution, in a classroom or similar place devoted to instruction, unless, in the case of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, the performance, or the display of individual images is given by means of a copy that was not lawfully made…and that the person responsible for the performance knew or had reason to believe was not lawfully made.

Specific Conditions

Additional text of the Copyright Act and portions of the House Report (94-1476) combine to provide the following, more detailed list of conditions [from Virginia M. Helms, supra]:

  1. They must be shown as part of the instructional program.
  2. They must be shown by students, instructors, or guest lecturers.
  3. They must be shown either in a classroom or other school location devoted to instruction such as a studio, workshop, library, gymnasium, or auditorium if it is used for instruction.
  4. They 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. They must be shown only to students and educators.
  6. They must be shown using a legitimate (that is, not illegally reproduced) copy with the copyright notice included.