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Copyright & campus film screenings

While noncurricular film screenings on campus often fall under the “face-to-face” teaching exception in U.S. copyright law (Section 110[1]), in some instances they'll require additional public performance rights.

Screening films to an audience from a physical copy

The face-to-face teaching exception allows films to be screened without the permission of the copyright holder if: 

  1. The physical copy being used (e.g., DVD) is legal,  

  1. The screening takes place in a classroom (or other space typically utilized for instruction),  

  1. The film is screened under the direction of the instructor or students, and 

  1. It's part of the face-to-face teaching activities of a nonprofit educational institution. 

Any screenings in credit courses with DVDs, VHS, or other physical formats from the UA Libraries (or other legal sources) clearly meet these criteria.

For evaluating whether other UA-related screenings are exempt, the first three criteria are straightforward. The applicability of the face-to-face teaching exception for UA-sponsored film symposia, series, or other events where films are viewed, however, may be less clear. Is the purpose to engage viewers by screening interesting movies on particular topics, or to truly educate (e.g., about culture, history, economics, literature, etc.) utilizing film? What evidence exists to indicate the latter? Is there, for example, a shared syllabus or other description of the educational program, describing learning objectives as well as the expectations of participants? 

As a general rule, each of the following should be considered and answered in the affirmative to meet the "face-to-face teaching activities" requirement at the UA:

  1. Are the face-to-face teaching activities part of the established educational programming of a UA department or other group (center, club, etc.)? 

  1. Is there a dedicated UA faculty or administrative lead responsible for oversight?   

  1. Is the screening paired with other activities (e.g., lectures, group discussions, assignments or activities, etc.) that are designed to meet educational outcomes developed by the sponsors and agreed to by the participants? 

  1. Are the participants all UA students?

Film screenings not meeting these additional criteria and level of rigor are unlikely to meet the requirements for Section 110(1) and may require additional public performance rights (PPR) or permission from the copyright holder. Contact your librarian if you have questions.

Screening films from a streaming video

The use of streaming content is governed by the rights negotiated for each title rather than by copyright. All streaming content available through the UA Libraries’ collections has been licensed to allow for individual viewing by UA students, staff, or faculty, as well as for use in UA credit courses (whether face to face or online). These licenses may or may not allow for broader uses (e.g., other educational or public performances), depending on the film. For questions on specific streaming titles, contact your librarian

Streaming content accessed by individuals through other services (Netflix, Hulu, etc.) is governed by licenses set out by those providers and usually doesn't allow for public performances of any kind (which includes use in the classroom). However, one-time educational uses of some Netflix documentaries are covered by the service's educational viewing license. To find out which titles are available, go to the "Only On Netflix" section of media.netflix.com. From there, navigate to "All Alphabetical." If the desired film is on the list, the instructor will need to access it in the classroom via their Netflix account. The educational viewing license doesn't apply to viewing outside the classroom.