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Copyright Guide for Jefferson Community College: Films and Media

Copyright FAQs Relating to Media

I am a faculty member and I would like to show “The Hunger Games” in class.  I taped it off cable television last week.  May I show this in my class?

No. Copyright laws do generally allow faculty members engaged in face-to-face teaching activities at nonprofit educational institutions to display copyrighted works if they directly relate to the teaching situation. However, the copy of the program has to be “lawfully made.”  If the Media Center does not own a copy of the film or program we will make every effort to obtain one.  You also have the option of using materials that you have purchased yourself, provided that they are lawfully made. There are provisions that allow limited use of recorded news and educational broadcasts if the broadcast was available without a cable subscription.

17 U.S.C. § 110 (1)       


Is it legal to stream films in my classroom using my personal subscription to Netflix (or a similar service)?

We suggest not using your personal streaming accounts in the classroom. When you accept the license agreement with these streaming services you may be giving up copyright exceptions, including fair use. For example, the Netflix “Terms of Use” document states “…and any content viewed through our service, are for your personal and non-commercial use only.” It has been noted that many copyright attorneys interpret personal as just that, your own personal use.  Elsewhere in the agreement it states that you “…agree not to archive, download (other than through caching necessary for personal use), reproduce, modify, display (emphasis added), perform, publish….content and information contained on or obtained from or through the Netflix service…”  

This situation has not been argued in court to the best of our knowledge, but we recommend that you use media that has been obtained as a lawfully made physical copy or stream films that have been licensed for that purpose.


I need to study a song for MUS 150, may I make a copy of the Media Center’s CD? 

No. We can loan you our copy, but it is illegal under U.S. copyright laws to make and distribute copies of copyrighted materials, including CDs. This is due to the fact that the owner of the copyright reserves the right to copy and distribute the materials. Many students find it difficult to believe that if you purchase a CD or download music legally and then make a copy and give it to your friend you are breaking the law, but that is true.

17 U.S.C. § 106      


I am in the Computer Club and we would like to show the video about Bill Gates that the Media Center owns in the Commons to help us recruit new members.  Can we do that?  Maybe.  In addition to the rights to copy and distribute materials, the owner of the copyright also reserves the rights to publicly broadcast/display the work. In some cases the Media Center has paid for public performance rights and if we have done that for the video in question it would be ok to show it in a public place such as the Commons.  If we did not purchase the public performance rights it would be illegal to show the film in the Commons. (We do not need to purchase public performance rights for materials shown in face-to-face instruction as the law does allow for educational use in classrooms where only students enrolled in the class are present and the film directly relates to the instruction.)

17 U.S.C. § 106 (4)      
17 U.S.C. § 110            



I am a faculty member and I have a lawfully made copy of a documentary that I usually show in my classes on-campus. This semester I am teaching in the ITV room and in addition to the students in the room I have students at General Brown and at the Lowville High School.  It is legal to do this?

Maybe.  To broadcast the entire work ideally we would need to purchase a distance learning/streaming license for the title. Without that license, transmitting the entire film electronically to the other locations could be a violation of copyright law.  (The copyright issues relate to duplication, distribution, etc.)  While distance learning/streaming licenses are generally quite expensive, we would be happy to discuss your needs. If a license is available and you stream the entire program without it you could liable for a copyright violation.

Other options:  If a license for distance learning/streaming is not offered it might be possible to make a case for using at least a portion of the material under the fair use provisions of copyright law. Contact us and we will help you evaluate the situation.

Also, the TEACH Act does allow for the transmission of a “reasonable and limited” (currently undefined) portion of a work without copyright holder permission, if: the work will only be transmitted to students enrolled in the class; the class is credit-bearing; it is transmitted via a secure system; it is directly related to the class content (not for entertainment), it is under the direct supervision of the instructor; the copyright notice is shown or the students are informed in some manner  that the work is copyright protected; the work was not sold primarily for use in the online distance learning market; and no copies will be made other than what is needed for transmission.

17 U.S.C. § 110 (2)        


I would like to have my students watch a feature film outside of class. Can they come to the Media Center and watch it?

Yes, in relation to copyright, if the film is directly related to instruction and you are making it a class requirement, students may watch programs in the Media Center.  In relation to logistics, due to the layout of our facilities we are limited to having individuals or very small groups watching a specific program at any one time.  

Other options:  We do offer a variety of educational films online via our Films on Demand database.  You could assign a film from the database depending upon your needs.

For selected feature films we have the option of offering streaming access via the Internet. In the past we have had instructors link to the films via Blackboard. These arrangements are made on a semester by semester basis and require a fairly high number of student viewers to make them cost effective.  Contact us if you would like to explore this option.