Options for Using Film in Courses

This document offers some ideas for ways to provide students access to movies assigned for class preparation. It is meant to be suggestive and is in no way a limit on the possible choices.  Faculty should make decisions about assigned materials first and foremost based on their professional judgment as educators about what is pedagogically sound and effective. 

Keep in mind…

In all cases, streaming entire films or clips of films (other than of movies you make or have permission to use) must only be available to students enrolled in the class during the term with authenticated access and subject to appropriate security. You may wish to remind students as a formality that they are subject to the policies of the University of Michigan.

The Basics

(1) Show the full length of a movie during regular class time

It is legal to show the full length of a movie during regular class time where only enrolled students and the instructor are present and in situations when viewing the movie in its entirety is required for the course. 

(2) Use Video Streaming Services purchased by the Library

The Library is now offering streaming video with these online databases:

These databases offer links to specific programs that can be added to your CTools sites for student access, and also allow for the creation of clips and compilations that can be shared.  All of these streaming databases can be located by searching for the titles above in the search box on the Library’s homepage. The Library will consider purchasing access to additional sources. Please contact the Askwith Media Library to make your recommendation.

(3) Use commercial avenues

Instructors may send their students to commercial sources of films available for streaming such as Netflix, Amazon, iTunesU, etc. After searching various commercial film providers for all film titles associated with the streaming video for instructors service, we discovered that a large percentage of titles are available through Netflix DVD and a small percentage of titles are available through the Netflix streaming service. An account for Netflix services is relatively inexpensive. If you plan to use this option, communicate with your school or college regarding student fees for your course. If you have questions about what is available via commercial sources, please contact Jeff Pearson of the Askwith Media Library ( 734-763-3758) or the Language Resource Center.

(4) Use video clips for educational purposes

There are copyright laws that discuss the technical means for making copies of film and others that describe the rules governing the use of media for educational purposes. Section 1201 (a) (1) of the copyright law allows the decryption of copy protection of motion picture media (such as DVD, VHS, Blu-ray) that are lawfully made and acquired, for the purposes of creating short clips for criticism and study purposes for professors and media studies students. Talk to us about your interests and needs; we will work to help you accomplish your educational objective within fair use guidelines. Contact Jeff Pearson of the Askwith Media Library, film studies librarian Phil Hallman, the Language Resource Center, the LSA Instructional Support Services, or the Library Copyright Office for assistance or further clarification if needed. 

There are two methods for creating video clips:
a) Use the MiVideo service to get clips created and added to CTools

Contact Jeff Pearson of the Askwith Media Library, or film studies librarian Phil Hallman. The Language Resource Center  can also provide assistance with streaming requests.

b) Create your own clips

Make an appointment at ScholarSpace in the Hatcher Graduate Library or at the Language Resource Center in the Faculty Development Station. You can also contact the LSA Instructional Support Services to discuss the option of creating clips and the viability of other options. These service points have experts to help you, and regular training sessions are offered on a variety of media software.

(5) Use the MiVideo service to stream full-length video for which you have appropriate rights or license

Many films with the appropriate licensing may be streamed in full. Please contact us (see below) regarding the licensing of the media you wish to use for your course.

If you have created a film, consider adding a Creative Commons license so that you and others can use the film in courses. Creative Commons Licenses are explained on the Library’s Copyright Office Creative Commons guide  We are happy to consult with you about selecting the most appropriate license for your works.

(6) Use traditional Reserves services

Instructors may request that materials be placed on reserve at the Askwith Media Library (AML), the Language Resource Center (LRC) or the Art, Architecture and Engineering Library (AAEL) for in-house viewing for up to three weeks. The AML has 10 viewing stations that can accommodate up to 4 students each. The LRC has 2 viewing stations that can accommodate up to 5 students each, along with computers for DVD viewing. AAEL (Imageworks) has 3 viewing stations that can accommodate up to 4 students each. Please contact the AML, the LRC, or AAEL to make arrangements.

(7) Use Screening Rooms

You can setup multiple screenings of a required film for your course by contacting the Askwith Media Library (AML) or the Language Resource Center (LRC) to schedule time in their different screening rooms.

The Shapiro Screening room, managed by the Askwith Media Library, has a seating capacity of 45 people. Please contact the AML to make arrangements for use. View the Screening Room policies.

The Video Viewing Room, managed by the LRC, has a seating capacity of 35 people, Please contact the LRC to make arrangements for use. View room policies and capabilities.

Evaluation on a Case-by-Case Basis

Please talk about your specific case with staff at the Askwith Media Library , the LRC or the Library Copyright Office.

In some fact-specific situations, faculty may be able to make a copy of a legally acquired movie.

  • Generally the law explicitly permits clips and short portions for educational purposes.
  • To make such copies, if one needs to circumvent digital rights management on a DVD, then the use must comply with the permitted limitation to a copyright holder’s rights in the law which otherwise prohibits circumventing digital rights management (see ©Guide for explanation of the Section 1201 DMCA-related provision.)
  • The resulting use must be a legally permissible use. Consider whether the use will be consistent with fair use, the TEACH Act, or other exemptions commonly related to educational non-commercial needs.
  • If the quality of the reproduction is not critical AND a contemplated use is not eligible for the Section 1201 exemption allowing breaking of digital rights management, one option suggested by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) is to record the movie directly from a screen then use the resulting low-quality copy. This is not likely to provide educationally useful copies and is noted here as the kind of option posited by one industry organization (this is not an overt requirement of the law).
  • The only limitation under US Copyright Law that would permit making a full (rather than a portion) copy of a movie is fair use. The only limitation that explicitly addresses distance education possibilities (the TEACH Act, 17 USC. §110(2)) only allows providing a ‘limited and reasonable portion’ of the work. It is unclear, though possible that in some situations it is reasonable to use the entire work, but to date this has not been clarified by Congress or a court.

More likely to be a fair use or be consistent with an educational limitation

  • Faculty overlay written comments over the movie without circumventing the copy protection.
  • Faculty record an audio track of their comments that is played concurrently with the movie. 
  • Provide clips. Students might be required to watch the film first for context then review the clips you select or comment on.
  • A movie is available only in a format not common in the U.S., such as a PAL/SECAM VHS videocassette or non-region one DVD.


Page maintained by Cara L Slavens
Last modified: 05/30/2017