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Streaming Media in Your Course: FAQ: In-Person, Online Courses, and Fair Use

In-Person vs. Online

Is there a difference between using video for online classes (and within an online learning management system like Canvas) and in traditional face-to-face classes?

Yes. There are greater restrictions on the use of media for online classes and within online learning management systems because transmitting a video involves creating and/or distributing a "copy" of the resource in question so there are much stricter rules.


The 2002 TEACH Act permits the performance or display of a complete nondramatic literary or musical work or reasonable and limited portions of any other work (dramatic and fictional works, etc.), by or in the course of a transmission, if:


  • The copy of the work was legally acquired
  • The performance occurs as part of a systematic, mediated instructional activity by a governmental or nonprofit educational institution
  • The performance is related to the educational content being presented
  • Access is limited to students enrolled in the course or employees of the government institution (through password protection, etc.)
  • The institution providing the material applies technological measures that would "reasonably prevent" retaining a permanent copy of the material (e.g., "streaming" audio or video vs. downloadable files)
  • A copyright notice accompanies the material

The Act further limits digital copies being made under certain circumstances:

  • Copying cannot occur when the copies would violate existing licensing rules for the material
  • Material originally designed as an online educational resource (e.g., academic courseware or instructional materials) cannot be reproduced under the TEACH Act

Can faculty show copyrighted videos to a class?

In-Person: Yes, under Section 110 of the Copyright Act (commonly referred to as the “Educational Exception") faculty may show all or part of a copyrighted video work in a face-to-face class setting if it is a part of regular instructional activities, in a classroom, and with a lawfully made copy. The statute outlines the following conditions for Section 110 compliance:

  • A teacher or instructor is present
  • The showing takes place in a classroom setting with only the enrolled students attending
  • The work is used as essential part of the core, required curriculum being taught (the instructor should be able to show how the use of the work contributes to the overall required course study and syllabus).
  • The work being used is a legitimate copy, not taped from a legitimate copy or recorded from TV

Online: Yes, but only if it is a lawfully made copy which follows the specifications outlined in the TEACH Act and available only to those enrolled in the specific course or available through a streaming license. To request an item be made available for streaming to an online course or in an online learning management system (i.e. Canvas), check the following:

  • Search the Library catalog to determine if we already own the title
    • If the Library does own the title, a request to upload the title to a Canvas/Kaltura page can be made via the Streaming Media Course Reserves Request Form.
    • If the title can be licensed in another database (see next section), the Library cannot provide access to the full title via the Streaming Media Course Reserves service
  • Search a specific database (Kanopy, Swank) to determine if it is available for streaming license


Can instructors show a film to individuals outside of their course or as a part of other on-campus events/activities?

In-person: No, the film must be shown to students, instructors, and/or guest lecturers in a classroom and as part of regular classroom activities to be in compliance with Section 110. If an instructor or students are interested in showing a film outside of their course as part of other on-campus activities, whoever is showing the film is responsible for ensuring or securing public performance rights.

Online: No, the film must be made available through Canvas only to those enrolled in the course.

What about Fair Use?

The doctrine of Fair Use is presented in Section 107 of the Copyright Act and grants exceptions to rights holders’ exclusive copyrights for the purposes of “criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research.” While Fair Use does cover many of the activities undertaken by instructors, universities, and non-profit educational & cultural heritage institutions, judicial history and the substance of the law itself mandates that Fair Use analysis or determinations be made on a case-by-case basis using the Four Factors outlined in Section 107, and through an examination of the specific circumstances of each use-case.

FSU offers information about Fair Use Guidelines in addition to a Fair Use Checklist that instructors are encouraged to utilize before using copyrighted works as part of instruction activities. Questions about Fair Use and how it relates to specific use-cases can be directed to the authors of this LibGuide.

Timeline Considerations

Streaming media should be treated like textbooks and be requested the semester before the course to give time to locate the materials. Unfortunately, some materials can’t be located or are cost prohibitive for courses. Early preparation is key for successful integration of streaming media resources in your course.

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