Brown University Copyright and Fair Use

Brown University
 Rules and Permissions for Audio-visual Media Copyright law and audio-visual materials

Copyright owners have the exclusive right to display and perform their works, including the projection of a film or videotape. However, educators may show films or video-tapes without explicit permission from the copyright owner if the showings are for educational purposes and are in accordance with Congressional guidelines. The film or video must be directly related to instruction and shown in the course of face-to-face teaching activities in a nonprofit education institution. In addition, the film or video must be a legally acquired or legally duplicated copy of the work.

In order to know which uses of audiovisual materials are permitted and prohibited by the Copyright Act, educators need to understand two key terms: performance and display. Under Section 101 of the Copyright Act in the case of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, these terms are defined as follows:

  • To display a work means to show individual images non-sequentially.
  • To perform a work means to show its images in sequence or to make the sounds accompanying it audible.

For example, in lay terms, one displays pictures of audio-visual frames of a film or videotape, whereas one performs an audiovisual work by running all or part of it through the projector or player.

Permissible Uses

The display or performance of audiovisual works in non-profit institutions is permissible, provided the following conditions are met:

  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 location devoted to instruction such as a studio, library, or auditorium if it is used for instruction.
  4. They must be shown either in a face-to-face setting or where students and faculty are in the same building or general area.
  5. They must be shown only to students and/or educators.
  6. They must be using a legitimate (that is, legally reproduced) copy with the copyright notice included.
Prohibited Uses

Displays and performances of audiovisual works are prohibited in nonprofit educational institutions when:

  1. They are used for entertainment, or for their cultural or intellectual value but unrelated to a teaching activity.
  2. They are shown in a public performance, to an audience not confined to students, and not related to educational instruction, such as a sporting event, graduation ceremony or community arts or lecture series.
  3. They involve an illegally acquired or illegally duplicated copy of the work.
  4. They are transmitted by radio or television (either closed or open circuit) from an outside location.
The "For Home Use Only" Warning on Videotapes

Educators should understand that the "For Home Use Only" warning on the labels of many videotapes is unlikely to preclude using such tapes in the classroom.

However, the restrictions are applicable to public performances held on the educational institution's property such as an evening event or weekend event open to the public, for entertainment or for cultural purposes. Such public performances do not include instructional activities in an educational institution which are limited to students.

Libraries and Videotapes

The libraries of educational institutions can allow videotapes to be viewed by the faculty or students, provided that such viewing is for instructional purposes. Presumably this applies to viewing by an individual or small groups of students as part of a class assignment or project

Random viewing in the library or media services that is not related to instruction may be questionable unless media services or library personnel obtain permission through license or contract, so it's best to only allow the viewing of copyrighted videotapes in library carrels or rooms for direct instructional purposes.

As with books, libraries may loan videotapes to faculty for use in their own home and libraries have the right to sell, or otherwise dispose of their copies.

Reproduction of video tapes by media services/libraries is limited by Section 108 of the copyright law. Reproduction of copyrighted videotapes may occur only to replace a work that is lost, stolen or damaged and that cannot otherwise be replaced at a fair price.

Guidelines For Taping Broadcast Programming (10-Day Fair Use)

There are a number of restrictions placed on the use of videotapes made from broadcasted television programs. The two most critical limitations are:

  1. Videotaped recordings maybe kept for no more than 45 calendar days after the recording date, at which time the tapes must be erased.
  2. Videotaped recordings may be shown to students only within the first 10 school days of the 45-day retention period.
  3. Additional restrictions include:

  4. If recorded at an educational institution the off-air recordings must be made at the request of an individual faculty member for instructional purposes.
  5. The recordings are to be shown to students no more than two times during the l0-day period and the second time only for necessary instructional reinforcement.
  6. The tape recordings may be viewed after the 10-day period only by the faculty for evaluation purposes, that is, to determine whether to include the broadcast program in the curriculum in the future.
  7. All copies of off-air recordings must include the copyright notice on the broadcast program as recorded.
  8. The "off-air recordings" may not be physically or electronically altered or combined with others to form anthologies. Also off-air recordings need not be used or shown in their entirety.
  9. If several faculty request the videotaping ofthe same program, duplication is permitted but all copies are subject to restrictions of the original recording.
  10. These guidelines apply only to nonprofit educational institutions.

Remember that the above guidelines are for commercial television broadcasts and some public television broadcasts, unless there are other negotiated rights or licensing agreements. Public Broadcasting Service/Programs

Many of the programs and series distributed by PBS include a 7-day rerecord right. The 7-day rerecord rights allow:

  1. Only a single copy of the program may be recorded by an educational institution and it may not be duplicated.
  2. Programs may be recorded with prior request from a faculty member and may be recorded and shown each time a program is broadcast.
  3. The program may be retained for 7 consecutive days following the broadcast but must be erased at the end of the 7th day.
  4. The program may be transmitted on closed circuit systems, closed cable systems or ITFS systems.
  5. The program may be shown as often as needed during the 7-day period.
Videotape Distribution and Duplication

Rights to make multiple copies ofa program and distribution of those programs beyond the institution can vary from program to program and from series to series. An educational institution should not make assumptions and should obtain exact information about what rights are available.

  1. Distribution and duplication rights may have to be purchased from the producer or the distributor.
  2. Sometimes there are no rights available from any source at any cost.
  3. And sometimes those rights may only be available to the agency granted those rights by a distributor or producer.
Resources for further information on copyright


  • Johnson, Beda, How to Acquire Legal Copies of Video Programs, 3d. revision. San Diego: Video Resources Enterprise, 1987. 33 pages, paper. This publication is designed to help one develop policies and procedures for off-air videotaping from television. It includes information on the following: sources for free, borrowed, dubbed, and legally retained programs; film and video companies' licensing centers that offer licensing agreements for the retention of off-air programs.
  • Helm, Virginia M. What Educators Should Know about Copyright. Bloomington, IN: Phi Delta Kappa Educational Foundation, 1986. 50 pages, paper. Discusses fair use guidelines for photocopying and for videotaping commercial, public broadcasting programs.
  • Miller, Jerome K. Using Copyrighted Videocassettes in Classrooms, Libraries, and Training Centers, 2d ed. Friday Harbor, WA: Copyright Information Services, 1988. 114 pages, hard cover. Discusses the laws and rules governing public performance of prerecorded videocassettes. Including information on: proprietor's rights; home-use rights; educators' rights; training specialists; librarians; hospitals; and warning notices.
  • Vieck, Charles. Copyright Policy Development A Resource Book for Educators. Friday Harbor, WA: Copyright Information Services, 1987. 164 pages. Educator's guide to preparing an institutional copyright policy.
  • Reed, Mary Hutching. The Copyright Primer for Librarians and Educators. 2d ed. ALA Publishing, IL, 1995. 160 pages. Uses a question and answer format on new developments such as: video, digitization, other emerging technologies.


  • Copyright Law: What Every School, College and Public Library Should Know. Produced by the Association for Information Media and Equipment, 1986. 21 minutes. Key points are: What is copyright?; Fair Use; Face-to-Face Teaching Exemption; Off-air Videotaping Guidelines.
  • Copyright What Are Your Rights to Copy Educational Materials? Produced by the Office of Instructional Technology, South Carolina State Department of Education, n.d. Two 20-minute programs. Part 1 : video/filth and computer software. Part 2: print and music. This video uses vignettes to pose 40 often-asked question pertaining to copyright.
  • A Shared Set of Values. Produced by the Association of American Publishers, 1996. 12 minutes This video is designed to increase copyright awareness and stimulate discussion among students on this important issue.
  • Multimedia Fair-Use Guidelines: The Educational Gateway to The Information Age. Produced by the Consortium of College and University Media Centers, 1995. 120 minutes. Viewers will learn the details of the multimedia fair use guidelines that the CCUMC is developing in cooperation with representatives from educational associations, proprietary groups, and the U.S. Copyright office.
  • Fair Use: Guidelines for Educational Multimedia. Produced byAmes, Iowa: Consortium of College and University Media Centers, 1997. 120 minutes. Provides interpretation of the final guidelines of fair use of multimedia, reviews their development, and provides guidance on their implementation.