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 must only be available to students enrolled in the class during the term with authenticated access and subject to appropriate security. Exceptions include movies you make, or have permission to use. You do not need permission if you are using something that is not copyrightable or is in the public domain, or if you are using it in a way that does not implicate one of the rights of copyright holders or is permitted by a user’s right. You also don't need further permission if your use falls within an existing license. 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 a movie during face-to-face teaching.

Under Section 110(1) of the Copyright Act, teachers and students are allowed to show movies without permission in “a classroom or similar place devoted to instruction” during face-to-face teaching at a nonprofit educational institution, so long as the copy used was lawfully made.

(2) Use video streaming resources provided by the Library.

The Library provides streaming video with the online databases listed here.

These databases offer links to specific programs that can be added to your Canvas 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: http://www.lib.umich.edu/. The Library will consider purchasing access to additional sources. Please contact the Askwith Media Library at askwithmedia@umich.edu to make your recommendation.

(3) Use films that are in the public domain in the United States.

Works that are not subject to copyright are in the public domain. They may be used without permission. In the United States, a copyrightable work is in the public domain if:

  • It was published before March 1, 1989 and did not comply with one or more of the required formalities. (Note: if the work was first published outside of the United States, copyright restoration may apply. For more information, see Copyright Restoration Under the URAA (PDF).)
  • The term of its copyright protection has ended.
  • Its copyright holder placed it in the public domain using the Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication.

Every country has its own rules about when a copyrightable work enters the public domain.

We recommend using Cornell's chart, Copyright Term and the Public Domain in the United States, and Berkeley's PDF handbook, Is it in the Public Domain? to determine whether a particular work is in the public domain in the United States.

Please be aware that being in the public domain is not the same thing as being "publicly accessible." Many works that are freely available on the internet are still under copyright.

For more information about what is in the public domain, you may wish to consult the Duration & Formalities page of the Copyright Office’s Copyright Basics guide.

(4) Use films as permitted by the TEACH Act.

US copyright law gives teachers the right to use works for distance learning without permission under certain circumstances. This provision, which is sometimes called the TEACH Act, is codified at 17 U.S.C. § 110(2). For more infromation about the TEACH Act, you may wish to consult the Rights of Users page of the Copyright Office’s Copyright Basics guide.

(5) Have students purchase the film or purchase access to it.

Instructors may send their students to commercial sources of films available for streaming such as Netflix, Amazon, iTunes, etc. Keep in mind that the selection of videos available on each of these services can change from one month to the next. 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 (jwpearso@umich.edu or 734-763-3758) or the Language Resource Center (reservations-lrc@umich.edu).

(6) Use video as permitted by fair use and stream it on your course website.

Fair use allows certain uses of copyrighted material without permission from the copyright holder. There are four factors to consider when determining whether your use is a fair one. You must consider all the factors, but not all the factors have to favor fair use for the use to be fair.

Even when copyright law permits your use of a work, it may be illegal to circumvent an access-control technology to make that use.  Current exceptions to that rule permit faculty and students at colleges and universities to circumvent access-control technology with screen capture technology “solely in order to make use of short portions of the motion pictures for the purpose of criticism or comment” for “educational purposes.” In cases where screen-capture technology won’t produce a sufficiently high-quality clip (e.g., for film studies courses), other types of circumvention are permitted.

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 (jwpearso@umich.edu), the Language Resource Center (reservations-lrc@umich.edu), the LSA Instructional Support Services (issinstruction@umich.edu), or the Library Copyright Office (copyright@umich.edu) for assistance or further clarification if needed.

If you need assistance to create clips under fair use you can use these services:

  • ScholarSpace (https://www.lib.umich.edu/scholarspace) can advise and assist with the creation of clips. Make an appointment at the ScholarSpace in the Hatcher Graduate Library (scholarspace@umich.edu).
  • Groundworks in the Duderstadt Center (http://www.dc.umich.edu/spaces/groundworks) offers guidance and equipment for making clips.
  • LSA Instructional Support Services (issinstruction@umich.edu) provides a Video Clip Digitization Service. You can learn more here.

To share video with your students use the MiVideo service, which is embedded in the Canvas Media Gallery, to upload video to a Canvas course website.

Contact Jeff Pearson of the Askwith Media Library (jwpearso@umich.edu), the Language Resource Center (reservations-lrc@umich.edu), or the ITS Service Center for assistance using the MiVideo service.

(7) Obtain a license and stream video on your course website.

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. The Library Digital Films Service Research Guide offers information on the streaming services offered by the Library.

In addition to using films licensed by the University of Michigan, you can use films licensed under public licenses. If the work you want to use is available under a public license, such as one of the Creative Commons licenses, and your intended use complies with the terms of that license, you do not need to seek further permission. For more information about Creative Commons licenses, refer to the Library Copyright Office’s Creative Commons guide.

Library’s Copyright Office: copyright@umich.edu

Askwith Media Library: Phone: 734-764-5360, askwithmedia@umich.edu

Language Resource Center: reservations-lrc@umich.edu

(8) 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.

(9) Use Screening Rooms

You can arrange for 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 (askwithmedia@umich.edu), the LRC (reservations-lrc@umich.edu) or the Library Copyright Office (copyright@umich.edu).

For more information about fair use and using video on a course website, please consult this Fair Use FAQ.


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Last modified: 06/14/2018