1) Best Available Source
If you have a movie you want to show in class, the best place to check first is in our institutional collection with the Mt. SAC library! Our library subscribes to multiple video databases including Films on Demand, Kanopy, and a few specialized databases on history and music. Because the institution has already paid a license fee to provide free access to these resources, you do not need to pursue additional rights to use them for your class. Even better, you can embed videos from these sources directly into your course. Our librarians have also curated a list of several useful, freely available video resources such as PBS, Annenberg Foundation videos, TED, OpenCulture.com and more. For more info or to see the collections, go to the library research guide on Videos.
What if My Video Is Not Available Through These Sources?
When you want to show a film, video, or TV program in a course and it is not already licensed through the college library, you will need to take some factors into account.
2) Copyright, Public Performance Rights, and Fair Use
When it comes to providing a showing of a movie or documentary, copyright owners have certain rights. One relates to the right for others to make and distribute copies. Another is known as public performance rights (PPR). This relates to movies, plays and other similar types of performative content. Copyright also connects to who can perform that work live and who can show that content to an audience. Copyright and PPR may both be invoked if you show a movie during class (PPR) and also make or provide a copy available to be watched later (right to copy).
What about Netflix/Amazon Prime accounts?
When you sign up for a paid subscription service like Netflix and Amazon, you agree to contractual terms that specify how the uses and limitations for the end user. This licensing agreement supersedes general copyright protections. It may forbid making copies, streaming the video on a web location, or showing it in a public venue, even when copyright exceptions would allow it. As a subscriber, you are bound to the terms of the consumer agreement, so review that on your subscription services to see what is allowed.
- Netflix allows educational screenings of specific Netflix Original documentaries; they have a page in their Help documentation about this. Any title that does not grant this permission would not be able to stream without violating Netflix’s Terms of Service.
- Prime’s contract is less clear but simply references “international copyright laws,” and does not appear to expressly forbid uses that would be considered fair use under copyright laws. Prime also has student subscriptions for free or heavily discounted prices, though these may only be available for limited terms, such as 6 months or 1 year.
- Hulu’s Contract does not make any exceptions for educational use and specifically prohibits embedding content using iframes within a web location.
DVDS & Hard Media
The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), passed in 1998, offers limited permissions for digitizing and streaming DVDs or hard media for educational use. It allows professors to “rip” clips (aka digitize/stream) from videos for educational purposes. At Mt. SAC, you can get help with converting hard media and ensuring it is used within permitted uses from our college’s Broadcasting Services Department.
Does it matter if I own a copy of the DVD?
Open Media: YouTube, TED, Vimeo, and More
For these circumstances, we’ve created a service to cover those needs at Mt. SAC: our free captioning service! Yes, the captioning service will correct or add captions to existing content from YouTube and similar services. If you use content of this type in your classes, submit them to ensure they meet this requirement. Captioning services info and the Captioning Request form are on the FCLT website, or you can find it right where you need it: under the “Help” button in Canvas!
Summing it Up: So Can I Show a Movie in My Online Class?
Have more questions about movies, videos, or related topics? Found a great place to find “open source” video content? Share it with us and your colleagues in the comments below!
- Mt. SAC Library Research Guide on Showing Movies in Class and on Campus
- Library Online Resources for Faculty
- Mt. SAC Library Research Guide on Copyright and Fair Use
- Suggest a Purchase for the Mt. SAC Library Collection
- Finding Videos in Mt. SAC’s library
- Amazon Prime Student Account Options
- Captioning Request Form & Service Information
- Univ Texas Copyright: The TEACH Act
- University of Florida TEACH Act
- University of South Caroling: Streaming Video: Netflix/Hulu/Prime
- Orleans/Niagara BOCES: Copyright and Streaming Services
- Search United States Copyright Office database of registered copyright holders
- Search the library catalog for publisher / distributor information.
- Search the Copyright Clearance Center
- Search WATCH (Writers, Artists and their Copyright Holders)