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Copyright Information Center

Guide to using copyrighted material in course content at Hofstra University.

Public Performances and Classroom Screenings: The Difference

The Federal Copyright Act (Title 17, US code) governs how copyrighted materials, such as films, may be utilized publicly. Neither the rental nor the purchase of a DVD carries with it the right to exhibit such a DVD publicly outside the home, unless the site where the video is shown is properly licensed for exhibition. This compliance requirement applies to colleges and universities regardless of whether admission is charged, or whether the institution is commercial or non-profit. Public showings of films without an appropriate license put the University at risk of liability.

There is an exemption in the code, Section 110(1) which states that it is not an infringement of copyright when a video is displayed by instructors in the course of face-to-face teaching activities of a nonprofit educational institution, in a classroom or similar place devoted to instruction. However, when the University advertises programs as free and open to the public, and invites anyone to attend, this negates application of the classroom exemption.

Films to be screened in the Cultural Center Theater and other public venues around campus will require rights clearance in order to be publicized. If the space has been reserved for the use of a film in the course of face-to-face teaching, and the screening is not advertised or open to the public, rights clearance will not be required..

Some videos held in the Film and Media Library were purchased with public performance rights. Most were not. For questions about public performance rights, including how and when they should be acquired contact Sarah McCleskey.

Quick Answers

Can I show a video in a class?  YES!  Section 110(1) of the Copyright Law allows this.  This is the face-to-face teaching exemption.

Can I stream a DVD or VHS tape via Blackboard?  You can stream "reasonable and limited portions" without seeking permission from a rightsholder.  This is part of the TEACH act, Section 110(2). For assistance in creating clips, contact Faculty Computing Services. For information on streaming an entire film, contact the Head of Resource and Collection Services.

Does the library subscribe to any licensed streaming video resources?  YES!  Hofstra University Library provides access to over 70,000 streaming videos. And we are adding more all the time!

Can I break encryption to make video clips?  YES! Exemption 1201(a)(1) allows college and university professors to circumvent encryption to make clips of short portions of a work for educational use.

Can I show a video at a special event?  You will need to secure public performance rights to show a video in a setting outside the classroom (such as a Film Series). Contact the Head of Resource and Collection Services for assistance.

Can I tape a video off television and show it in class?  YES, but there are Congressional guidelines saying you can only retain it for 45 days as a teaching tool (there can be some flexibility with this). It's best to try to acquire the content from a commercial vendor. Contact the Head of Resource and Collection Services to request the video you want.



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