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Faculty Resources: Performance & Copyright

Public Performance

"Under the United States Copyright Act, Title 17 of the United States Code, movies may be shown without a separate license in the home to “a normal circle of family and its social acquaintances” because such showings are not considered public. However, only the copyright holder has the right to “perform” a movie outside the sphere of family and friends.[1] A "public performance" is a showing of a motion picture or other program outside of the home. This legal requirement is the same whether the movie or program has been purchased, rented, or borrowed; buying the movie does not grant one the right to perform it in public.[2] Both for-profit organizations and non-profit institutions must secure a public performance license, regardless of whether an admission fee is charged.[3]"

If you want to host the public performance of a movie - outside of class - you must obtain a license to do so.  Most licenses can be obtained from the Motion Picture Licensing Corporation (MPLC), an "international, independent copyright licensing agency authorized by motion picture copyright holders, such as studios and producers, to issue the MPLC Umbrella License for the public performance of copyrighted motion pictures and other programs." 

Read Motion Picture Licensing Corporation (MPLC) article on Wikipedia »

Showing Videos in Class

Copyright on videos and DVD's does not grant permission for public performance or public showing, unless the site where the video is used is properly licensed for copyright compliant exhibition.

That said, under the "Education Exemption" copyright movies may be exhibited in a college setting without a special license if the movie exhibition is:

(1) an "integral part of a class session" and is of "material assistance to the teaching content"

(2)  supervised by a teacher in a classroom

(3)  attended only by students enrolled in a registered class of an accredited nonprofit educational institution

(4)  lawfully made using a movie that has been legally produced and obtained through rental or purchase.


If you show the movie in the course of “face-to-face teaching activities,” in a classroom or similar place devoted to instruction, and if the copy of the movie being performed is a lawful copy, you do not need to get a clearance or license - per 17 U.S.C. § 110(1)

If the movie is for entertainment purposes, you need to get a clearance or license for its performance.

View FAQ from the US Copyright Office »

iTunes

Items obtained and/or purchased on iTunes are subject to the same copyright laws as those applied to any other audio/visual format, unless otherwise specified by the creator and/or poster.  In this regard, think of iTunes not as a different iteration of content with different sharing rules, but simply as content delivered in a different physical format requiring a different playback device.

Ex: a VHS, DVD and/or iTunes .mp4 copy of The Godfather are all physical manifestations of the same creative work; that creative work (The Godfather) being the item to which copyright is actually applied.

Note: just as it is not legal to copy a VHS to a DVD (other than for preservation purposes, per 17 USC § 108), it is not ok to burn an iTunes .mp4 file to a DVD or to convert the file to another format. 

Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Online Video

VHS to DVD

It is not OK to copy published works from VHS to DVD.  Copyright law does not allow for the transfer of formats (e.g. tape to DVD) without permission of the copyright holder, EXCEPT for the limited provisions of Section 108 of the copyright law (see the Section 108 Working Group website for details).

Section 108 allows replacement copies to be made by libraries and archives in cases where a title is at physical risk of deterioration, or is in an obsolete format, AND the title is not available for replacement at fair market prices. There are strict stipulations about the use and users of such replacement copies; most notably, the copy must be used within the confines of the library only.

According to NYU's publication "Video at Risk: Strategies for Preserving Commercial Video Collections in Libraries," although no professional grade VHS players are being manufactured, consumer-grade VHS/DVD combinations are still advertised for sale so Section 108's definition of obsolete likely does not apply to VHS tapes.

Individuals are prevented by copyright from making DVD copies of copyrighted tapes that they own. Use of such copies in the classroom is most definitely illegal.

YouTube

According to Section 6(C) of the YouTube Terms of Service, as a YouTube content provider:

... retain all of your ownership rights in your Content. However, by submitting Content to YouTube, you hereby grant YouTube a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free, sublicenseable and transferable license to use, reproduce, distribute, prepare derivative works of, display, and perform the Content... You also hereby grant each user of the Service a non-exclusive license to access your Content through the Service, and to use, reproduce, distribute, display and perform such Content as permitted through the functionality of the Service and under these Terms of Service. 

In translation: YouTube content may be freely used, reproduced and "performed" publicly, but only within the YouTube environment.  You cannot legally download, copy or in anyway pull content off the YouTube site; you cannot create physical derivatives of a YouTube video (i.e. burn to a DVD) or otherwise take posted content off-line.  


To allow users to share YouTube content on other websites YouTube provides a simple solution for embedding videos.  Click here to view instructions »

You can link-out to the video using its URL (in the 'Build Content' menu, choose 'URL' from the 'Create' list) or you can embed the video using the html code provided by YouTube. Click here to view video tutorial »