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Film resources guide

Copyright & use of film for educational purposes

Face-to-face classes & film use

Section 110 of U.S. Copyright law contains exceptions that allow educators to use film (and other copyrighted material) in the classroom. Known as "the classroom exception," instructors can use films in classrooms as long as the following conditions are met:

  • The teaching activities are conducted by a non-profit education institution
  • The film screening is in connection with face-to-face teaching activities.
  • The film screening takes place in a classroom or similar place devoted to instruction.
  • The person responsible for the film has no reason to believe it was unlawfully made or acquired.

Learn more here: The classroom use exception

Online classes & film use

The TEACH Act (2002), Section 110, 2), which stands for Technology, Education, and Copyright Harmonization, is a list of exceptions to U.S. Copyright Law for film use in a fully online course environment. Provisions that are most pertinent to the use of film online courses include the following:

  • The instructor supervises the display of film.
  • The TEACH Act does not provide exception for films screened in their entirety, though reasonable and limited portions of films used in the online class are considered "fair use." 
  • The film displayed represents material that would ordinarily be used in a face-to-face classroom setting.
  • The film is directly related and integral to the content of a class.
  • The film is lawfully made and/or acquired.
  • Access to the film must be limited to students who are officially enrolled in the course.
  • The instructor applies technological measures that prevent keeping the film accessible beyond the instructor's use, or the unauthorized further dissemination of the film beyond intended recipients. 
  • The instructor also must not engage in conduct that could reasonably be expected to interfere with technological measures used by copyright owners to prevent retention or unauthorized further dissemination of the work.

Learn more here: The TEACH ACT in a Nutshell

Screening films on campus for an event and public performance rights (PPR) licensing

If a film is being displayed as an event or part of an event on campus, you need permission to use it. Permission is available in the form of public performance rights in which a license to display the copyrighted work is purchased.

PPR: Do I need it? 

Yes, you need public performance rights:

  • If the showing of the video is open to the public, such as a screening at a public event, OR
  • If the showing is in a public space where access is not restricted, such as a a showing of a film for a class but in a venue that is open to anyone to attend, OR
  • If persons attending are outside the normal circle of family and friends, such as a showing of a film by a club or organization.

No, you do not need public performance rights:

  • If you are privately viewing the film in your home with only family and friends in attendance, OR
  • If you are an instructor showing the film in class as part of the course curriculum to officially enrolled students in a classroom that is not open to others to attend, OR
  • If the film is in the public domain.

SU Libraries does have some PPR licensed films in DVD and streaming formats, so please check there first. Otherwise, PPR licensing may be obtained by the Center for Student Involvement & Leadership.

Credit: The PPR content of this guide was originally created by University of Florida, Smathers Libraries:, "Do I Need Public Performance Rights?" Text color and emphasis have been altered from the original.