Level 2

Video in the Classroom

Let me get this straight. Using the four factors, I can only use small portions of a work, such as a video. What about showing videos in class?

This is a great question. How is it that teachers can show a whole movie in the classroom? To explain this, we need to learn a little bit more about the copyright law and the classroom use exemption.

What’s the classroom use exemption?

Copyright law places a high value on educational uses. The Classroom Use Exemption (17 U.S.C. §110(1) only applies in very limited situations, but where it does apply, it gives some pretty clear rights. In-class viewing is a public performance, but it’s permitted under the Classroom Use Exemption.

To qualify for this exemption, you must: be in a classroom (“or similar place devoted to instruction”). Be there in person, engaged in face-to-face teaching activities, and be at a nonprofit educational institution. Sounds a little restrictive?

If (and only if!) you meet these conditions, the exemption gives both instructors and students broad rights to perform or display any works. That means instructors can play movies and music for their students, at any length (though not from illegitimate copies!). Instructors can show students images, or original artworks. Students can perform arias, read poems, and act out scenes. And students and instructors can do all these things without seeking permission, without giving anyone payment, and without having to deal with the complications of fair use.

Sounds great, right? But this law doesn’t apply to all situations. The Classroom Use Exemption does not apply outside the nonprofit, in-person, classroom teaching environment! It doesn’t apply online—even to wholly course-related activities and course websites. It doesn’t apply to interactions that are not in-person—even simultaneous distance learning interactions. It doesn’t apply at for-profit educational institutions.

The Classroom Use Exemption also only authorizes performance or display. If you are making or distributing copies (i.e., handing out readings in class), that is not an activity that the Classroom Use Exemption applies to.

Video: In this video, the Library of Congress explains the classroom use exemption

So if I am a teacher, I can’t show a movie as a reward?

Fair use and the classroom use exception have one important thing in common—they support teaching and learning through media like videos. If the video meets your learning objectives for your classroom and content area, than those laws apply. There are many videos that do! As current and future teachers, it is important to make intentional choices of our use of technology.

Video: What’s the educational purpose of your movie? Learn more in this video.


Ok. So I found a blockbuster video related to my content, and I want to show the entire movie to my students. What’s next?

Some school districts have policies or forms about showing movies in the classroom. One great strategy is to send home a note or email describing the movie and how it fits into your curriculum. You can also let parents know the rating of the movie and how to opt out if that is an option.

Some school districts also subscribe to movie services for their teachers. These websites may come with handouts and worksheets that go along with the movie! The library may also have movies purchased for the school or a process for purchasing educational videos.

Also consider how you are going to integrate the movie into a learning activity. Will you have students completing an assignment? A reflection? Will you be stopping the movie to discuss? Good planning is key to an effective learning experience.

Permission Resources

What about video clips or parts of a movie?

This is covered under the four factors of fair use and the classroom use exemption. There are many ways you can use shorts bits of video or audio for student learning, from a introductory hook at the beginning of a lesson to a video that inspires a reflective homework assignment. Watch the video for more ideas. Also, many TV channels have streaming video clips to that you can show in the classroom.

Video: Listen closely to these two teachers sharing amazing ideas for using video clips for engagement and critical thinking.

Text adapted by Larysa Nadolny at Iowa State University from the following sources: https://www.lib.umn.edu/copyright/fairuse licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License and the Australian Law Reform Commission website www.alrc.gov.au under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Australia license.



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Copyright and Fair Use for Teachers Copyright © 2019 by Larysa Nadolny is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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