Can I Show these Videos in My Classroom?
How many times have you seen the phrase "For Home Use Only" on a videotape and wondered if it was really OK to show the program to students in a classroom? While there has been a lot of confusion in this area, the U.S. copyright laws are quite clear in offering guidance on this question. The question can easily be answered by examining the context in which the video is being shown.
First, you'll need some background. The "public performance" of an audio-visual work is the exclusive right of the copyright holder to show their audio-visual work in public and charge for that performance. However, the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, Section 110 (1) provides an exemption for certain performances of videos in the United States. This law has come to be known as the "classroom exemption" and provides the basis for responsible and legal use of videos in your classroom, provided certain criteria are met.
There are four main criteria that must be met before an educator should feel comfortable in showing a videotape or DVD in their classroom. The Copyright Act states that the performance of an audio-visual work "by instructors or pupils" in the course of "face-to-face teaching activities" of a "non-profit educational institution" in a "classroom or similar place devoted to instruction" is exempt from the copyright holder's exclusive right to perform an audio-visual work.
The Report of the House Committee on the Judiciary, Report No 94-1476, which accompanied the passage of the Act in 1976, provides assistance in interpreting the four requirements of the classroom exemption.
So, if all of the conditions of the classroom exemption are met, it is permissible to show a legally obtained video or DVD in a U.S. classroom without obtaining permission from the copyright owner even if labels like "For Home Use Only" appear on the outside of the video cassette. The "classroom exemption" supersedes these written warnings of the copyright holder.
Even if all of these conditions are not met, you still may have rights to use the audio-visual work in various settings under the doctrine of "fair use," which we will explore in a future article. Another alternative would be to obtain the copyright owner's written permission for the intended use.
This article was created to provide you with general information and may not address your specific question or situation. Your specific question or situation may change the legal implications. In addition, laws are subject to change and varying interpretations, and each jurisdiction has different laws and regulations. Consequently, this article is distributed with the understanding that neither the author nor publisher is rendering legal advice or professional services, nor does it form an attorney-client relationship. Please be sure to consult with an attorney licensed to practice law in your jurisdiction before taking any action on your specific question or situation.