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Boatwright Memorial Library

Copyright and Fair Use

Frequently Asked Questions

Are there circumstances when it would be permissible to circumvent encryption or copyright controls?

Yes, university faculty and students may circumvent the encryption on DVDs, Blu-ray discs or digital files to make clips or excerpts using screen capture technology for “classes or other courses requiring close analysis of film and media excerpts”, under the expansion of Digital Millennium Copyright exemptions passed in 2015.

Can I use Netflix to show a movie in face-to-face teaching?

Netflix’s license stipulates that their services are for personal use only, which in this case, defines the circumstances for using the company’s services. Though the company has stated they do not plan to pursue legal matters, so although technically using Netflix in the course of teaching violates their terms of use, it is low-risk.

The library owns a DVD with public performance rights that I wish to teach with, can you digitize the whole film and put it up on Blackboard for my course?

It is undetermined whether this would be considered a fair use. Though the courts ruled in favor of UCLA’s practice of digitizing DVD’s the library owned with public performance rights (PPR) and uploading the files to a password protected server, it is unknown whether this practice would be found in violation of copyright or not in the future. The library will not engage in this practice, but instead will make efforts to purchase a digital streaming license to make a film accessible.

Copyright and the Use of Video Formats

The American Library Association Fact Sheet 7 states the following:

“The Copyright Act of 1976 governs the rights of reproduction, adaptation, distribution, and public performance and display. Several sections of this act have implications for videocassettes, DVDs, Blu-ray discs and computer file formats.

When libraries purchase a video formats and make them accessible to patrons for a specific rental period, they own the physical object but not the copyright.  Copyright law, there, determines what libraries can and cannot do with the video formats they own without infringing upon the copyright they do not own.  The law, however, also includes exceptions and limitations to the exclusive rights of the rights holder that allow libraries to lend, preserve and replace videos and allow non-profit educational institutions the right to publicly perform videos in the face-to-face classroom.  When libraries want to use a video in such a way that would infringe upon the copyright, permission must be sought from the rights holder in the form of a license agreement.” 

  • Under these guidelines, most classroom uses of videos are permissible, provided that the showing is by instructors, guest lectures, or students done in connection with face-to-face teaching activities and not used for entertainment or recreation.
  • Besides use in classrooms, videos that are owned by University of Richmond Libraries may ordinarily be viewed by students on their computers or in small conference rooms if they are assigned by instructors for out-of-class viewing.
  • Videos owned by the University of Richmond Libraries may ordinarily be viewed at home (e.g. residence hall room) without infringement upon copyright.
  • “Public” viewings of videos, in which the video is shown in a place open to the public and which anyone can attend, require explicit permission from the copyright owner for “public performing rights.”  The Libraries can provide information on how one can secure public performing rights (PPR) for film programs and other events using videos in a public setting.  (Note:  There are usually fees charged to obtain PPR.)

NOTE: The information presented above is only general information.  This is not to be considered legal advice.


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