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Teaching Resources

Is it fair use?

When weighing whether use of a copyrighted source falls under educational fair use guidelines as defined by Section 107 of the Copyright Law of the United States of America consider these four factors:

  1. purpose
  2. nature
  3. amount
  4. effect

*When photocopying materials for course content, consider Factor 4 carefully. 

Pro Fair Use (Affirmative answers to these questions are weighted toward fair use.)

  • Is it for teaching purposes?
  • Will a not-for-profit institution use it for an educational purpose?
  • Will the use of the source further scholarship, criticism or comments on a work, or the reporting of news?
  • Will the new work build upon, rather than simply restate, the content of the original work?
  • Is access to the new work or the reproduction of the original work restricted?
  • Is the new work a parody of the original work?

Con Fair Use (Affirmative answers to these questions are weighted against fair use.)

  • Is the new work created for a commercial purpose?
  • Will the authors of the new work profit from its use?
  • Is the new work used for entertainment?
  • Is the author of the new work attempting to avoid compliance with copyright law?
  • Does the new work fail to acknowledge the original author?

Pro Fair Use (Affirmative answers to these questions are weighted toward fair use.)

  • Has the original work been published?
  • Is the content factual/nonfiction?
  • Does the use further educational purposes?

Con Fair Use (Affirmative answers to these questions are weighted against fair use.)

  • Is the original work unpublished?
  • Is the original work a creative entity such as a song, painting, or poem?
  • Is the content fiction?

Pro Fair Use (Affirmative answers to these questions are weighted toward fair use.)

  • Does the new work incorporate the smallest possible portion of the original work necessary to accomplish the desired educational goal?
  • Does the new work avoid duplicating the central essence of the original work?

Con Fair Use (Affirmative answers to these questions are weighted against fair use.)

  • Is most of the work or the entire work reproduced?
  • Does the new work duplicate the central essence of the original work?

Pro Fair Use (Affirmative answers to these questions are weighted toward fair use.)

  • Does the user possess a legal copy of the original work?
  • Does the reproduction create little or no effect on the market for the original work?

Con Fair Use (Affirmative answers to these questions are weighted against fair use.)

NOTE: When using a work for educational distribution or class readings (other than for a one time spontaneous use), positive responses to con factors below indicate that a copyright violation is likely to occur.

  • Is the user repeatedly circulating or distributing copies of the original work without obtaining copyright permission?
  • Is any product like the new work marketed by the owner?
  • Is a license for the use of the work or access to the work available for sale?
  • Can the new work be sold in place of the original work?
  • Does the new work diminish the market for the original work?
  • Has the author of the new work purchased any affordable use license or permission?
  • Are a large number of copies reproduced?
  • Is the new work available to the general public?
  • Was the new work used over and over again allowing access to quoted or derived ideas on a large scale?


Owens Library staff members are not lawyers or legal experts. Please consult a legal authority with specific questions.

Getting permission from the publisher

Can I show a video to my class?

The Copyright Act at §110(1) (face to face teaching exemption) allows for the performance or display of video or film in a classroom where instruction takes place in classroom with enrolled students physically present and the film is related to the curricular goals of the course.

The TEACH Act amendment to the Copyright Actcodified at § 110(2)permits the performance of a reasonable and limited portion of films in an online classroom. Under the TEACH Act, there is the express limitation on quantity, and an entire film will rarely constitute a reasonable and limited portion.  Using the TEACH Act Checklist will help instructors  to comply with the requirements when showing films in online classes.

Instructors may also rely upon fair use for showing films in an online course, although showing an entire film online also may not constitute fair use. 

Finally, the DMCA prohibits the circumvention of technological prevention measures (TPM) on DVDs and other media for the purpose of copying and distributing their content. Therefore, digitizing and streaming an entire DVD is not permissible unless an express exemption permits this. Currently, there is an exemption permitting faculty to circumvent TPM only to make clips of films for use in teaching and research.

Content adapted from the University of Florida and DuQuesne University under CC BY-NC 4.0.

Streaming video FAQs

The film I want to show is on Netflix. Can I stream this through my Netflix account in the classroom?

Subscription services such as Netflix and Amazon have very detailed membership agreements that may forbid the streaming of subscribed content in a classroom or other public venue. Encourage students to access content from streaming services such as Amazon, Hulu, Netflix, etc., on their own through their own subscription or account.

May I stream videos in my class with Zoom?

Some services allow streaming via Zoom while others may not due to copyright restrictions. You may need to assign students to view the film before class. The library attempts to purchase the license to show films when purchasing them but it is not always possible to do so.

If you have a problem showing a film on Zoom please check the help page on the service’s website to troubleshoot technical problems, for example this page on the Kanopy site. You may also Ask a Librarian.

Swank: Digital Rights Management does not allow streaming Swank videos through a third party streaming service, e.g., zoom. Instructors can provide a link to the film and assign students to view it online outside of class.

May I stream YouTube videos in my online class with Zoom?

Follow the Fair Use guidelines and Teach Act checklist when using YouTube videos.


May I show clips of films to my students as part of a lecture?
Generally, yes, this is permissible under fair use. Apply the four factors of fair use to determine whether the film in question may be used for this purpose and how much of the film may be shown. Exemptions under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act permit educators to "rip" clips from videos for educational purposes. 

If the library or I own the DVD that I want to show in my online class do I still need to get Public Performance Rights (PPR)?

The fact that the faculty member or B. D. Owens Library owns the video weighs in favor of fair use. However, purchasing a video does not confer public performance rights. The faculty member showing a video in an online class is basing the use on a claim of fair use and still should follow the expectations of the TEACH Act.

Teaching electronically has different copyright considerations than in person instruction in terms of showing videos. Showing a copyrighted video must comply with Fair Use guidelines.

What does "Home Use Only" mean? Does it mean I cannot show this DVD to my class?
Under copyright law, copyright holders have the exclusive right of performing or displaying their copyrighted works, including films or videos. The "Home Use Only" warning at the beginning of most DVDs refers to this exclusive right of performance and display. However, the law also has an exception for performing or displaying works in a face to face teaching situation where the work being performed or displayed is related to the curriculum and only being performed or displayed for students enrolled in a course at a non-profit educational institution..Therefore, under this exception, DVDs with the "Home Use Only" warning can be played in a face to face classroom. For online courses, refer to Fair Use guidelines for determining how much of the film can be shown.


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