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Films and Audiovisual Resources: Fair Use & Copyright - Q & A

Fair Use & Copyright - Q & A

FAQ: Using Copyrighted Films, Fair Use and Public Performance Rights

Q:  What is copyright?

Copyright is a form of protection granted by U.S. law to the creators of “original works of authorship” including scholarly and creative works. Creators don't have to register their work or attach a copyright notice in order for copyright protection to apply to the work - the protection is automatically granted from the time the work is created. 

Q:   What is Fair Use?

Fair use is a limitation on the exclusive rights of a copyright holder. If a proposed use meets the “fair use” criteria, and the user hasn’t agreed to abide by other terms—such as through a license agreement or a website’s terms of use—a copyrighted work may be used without permission. The Association of Research Libraries' Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Academic and Research Libraries provides a clear statement explaining what fair use means. 

With the move to remote teaching and research in the COVID-19 pandemic, copyright specialists revised fair use considerations summarized in a Statement on Fair Use & Emergency Remote Teaching & Research 

Q: What are Public Performance Rights (PPR)?

A: Copyrighted films (and most of them are) are not automatically licensed for public performance (this means showing a movie/film in an auditorium, public venue, or any other kind of public space). The only legal exception is if an instructor shows a video to enrolled students in an in-person class (or online class requiring registration)

Q: Does the Hostos Library purchase films with Public Performance Rights?

A: Most films the Library purchases from (e.g., Films for the Humanities, Bullfrog) do not include PPR in the purchase price.  Most DVDs purchased by the Library do not come with PPR. 

Kanopy is an exception - full public performance rights are granted only for the films that the Library has currently licensed via the Kanopy platform.  This means the film can be screened for classes or a public event as long as the screening is free.  Also, each Kanopy registered user has the ability to create a clip or a playlist that the user can embed or link the films to his or her course. 

According the American Library Association, any time a film is "display[ed] at a place open to the public or at any place where a substantial number of persons outside of a normal circle of a family and its social acquaintances is gathered," (Title 17, U.S. Code) you will need PPR rights.

Any time you are holding a public event in which anyone can come or log into, it is considered a public performance and you will need PPR. Student clubs, student-run film festivals and similar events are all public performances.

Consider whether your use is fair.  Here is a checklist that you can use to analyze your use:

     Fair Use Checklist (from ALA)

We encourage you to follow these practices that consider both the Fair Use and the TEACH Act:

  • Always put a link to the media in a password-protected site (i.e., Blackboard) that is only accessible by students enrolled in your course.
  • Use videos that directly relate to your curricula.
  • Use the minimum amounts of films necessary to meet your pedagogical objectives.
  • Transform the video clips into teaching tools.  For example, include critical analysis or annotations with the clips you show.
  • Activate access to the video ONLY during the days students need to access them for your class.
  • Include notice that the film is protected by copyright.  For example, the © symbol and any of the information following it, such as the author's and publisher's names.
  • Use media that was lawfully acquired.  

If you have any additional questions about Kanopy or any other copyright-related questions, please feel free to contact a librarian.