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Copyright Information and Guidelines

This guide for the Bentley University community presents information on copyright and provides guidance in evaluating the use of copyrighted material in higher education and scholarship.

Using Video in Course Instruction

Current technology has enabled the incorporation of motion media into multimedia projects with relative ease. Yet, the various formats available (video, DVD, streaming media) all remain subject to copyright law and any use must be evaluated in the same manner as other media. Permission is required for any use that does not fall within fair use.

To assist in determining if your proposed use complies with fair use and adheres to copyright law, featured below are selected guidlines and best practices that should help inform your decisions on what and how much to use.


The following are two sets of guidelines that are often cited as ideal tools with which to measure the use of copyrighted multimedia content in course-related instruction or scholarship. These guidelines both use the concepts of brevity, spontaneity and cumulative effect to illustrate what may or may not be a fair use. They suggest numerical limits as the minimum standards of educational fair use.

  • Classroom Guidelines - Developed by the Ad Hoc Committee of Educational Institutions and Organizations on Copyright Law Revision, the Authors League of America, Inc., and the Association of American Publishers.
The following are the primary conditions outlined in both sets of guidelines that should be considered when using multimedia resources:

Permissible Uses

  1. Educators may incorporate portions of lawfully acquired copyrighted works when producing their own educational multimedia projects for their own teaching tools in support of curriculum-based instructional activities at educational institutions.

  2. Educators may use their educational multimedia projects created for educational purposes for a period of up to two years after the first instructional use with a class. Use beyond that time period, even for educational purposes, requires permission for each copyrighted portion incorporated in the production. 

  3. Emergency copying to replace purchased copies which for any reason are not available for an imminent performance provided purchased replacement copies shall be substituted in due course.

  4. Up to 10% or 3 minutes, whichever is less, in the aggregate of a copyrighted motion media work may be reproduced or otherwise incorporated as part of an educational multimedia project 


  1. Copying to create or replace or substitute for anthologies, compilations or collective works.

  2. Copying for the purpose of performance, except as in permissible uses (1) above.

  3. Copying for the purpose of substituting for the purchase of a motion picture, except as in permissible uses (1) above.

  4. Copying without inclusion of the copyright notice which appears on the printed copy.

  5. Using multimedia Projects for non-educational or commercial purposes.

  6. Duplication and distribution of multimedia projects beyond classroom limitations.



Codes of Best Practices in Fair Use

There have emerged in recent years a number of Codes of Best Practices in Fair Use that relate specifically to the educational use of multimedia resources. Below are two such codes that address the specific research and pedagogical needs of film and media studies and should be consulted when appropriate and in concert with previously established guidelines to facilitate a thorough evaluation of the use of copyrighted multimedia content.


The following statements are excerpted from the Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Media Literacy Educations and should be used in conjunction with classroom guidelines to inform decisions regarding the use of copyrighted media:

Employing Copyrighted Material in Media Literacy Lessons

PRINCIPLE: Under fair use, educators using the concepts and techniques of media literacy can choose illustrative material from the full range of copyrighted sources and make them available to learners, in class, in workshops, in informal mentoring and teaching settings, and on school-related Web sites.

LIMITATIONS: Educators should choose material that is germane to the project or topic, using only what is necessary for the educational goal or purpose for which it is being made. In some cases, this will mean using a clip or excerpt; in other cases, the whole work is needed. Whenever possible, educators should provide proper attribution and model citation practices that are appropriate to the form and context of use. Where illustrative material is made available in digital formats, educators should provide reasonable protection against third-party access and downloads.

Employing Copyrighted Material in Preparing Curriculum Materials

PRINCIPLE: Under fair use, educators using the concepts and techniques of media literacy can integrate copyrighted material into curriculum materials, including books, workbooks, podcasts, DVD compilations, videos, Web sites, and other materials designed for learning.

LIMITATIONS: Wherever possible, educators should provide attribution for quoted material, and of course they should use only what is necessary for the educational goal or purpose. The materials should meet professional standards for curriculum development, with clearly stated educational objectives, a description of instructional practices, assignments, and assessment criteria.

Screening of Videos and Films

Classroom Screening

Performance rights are key to the permissions available for use. Videos and DVDs are sold with and without "nontheatrical-public-performance rights." Section 110(1) of the copyright law allows showing media labeled "For Home Use Only" in classrooms under the following conditions:

  • Legally acquired copies may be shown only to teachers and students in face-to-face instruction
  • In courses given for academic credit at an academic insitution
  • In classrooms or other locations devoted to instruction (e.g. laboratories, gymnasiums, libraries, etc.). As long as requirements for classroom exception apply (which includes any watching for class purposes assigned by a professor), the class may watch the video in the class or outside.  

Educators may claim fair use for their own multimedia projects providing these productions are:

  • For face-to-face curriculum-based instruction
  • Assigned to students for self-directed study 
  • For remote instruction as long as the distribution signal is limited

Public Screening

If an instructor wishes to invite members of the community outside of class participants to view a multimedia presentation or to display a production designated for "Home Use Only" to a group outside class time and to an audience which is not confined to the students and faculty assigned to a specific course, such use would be considered a public performance and would require the instructor to obtain public performance rights.

Multimedia Use in Brightspace

To comply with the Fair Use Guidelines for Educational Multimedia when using Brightspace, you should:

  1. Make sure the portions of copyrighted material you are using in your course meet the standards of the Guidelines. 

  2. Put the copyrighted material in a section of your Brightspace course site that is secured (using Course Settings: Area Availability in the Control Panel). This should meet the distribution requirement, because only students enrolled in your course will have access to that area.

  3. Use streaming audio and video, rather than uploading the files for students to download. Contact Steve Salina ( at the Academic Technology Center for assistance.

  4. Since Brightspace course sites are web-based, it is not possible for the technology to prevent copies of other materials from being made. Therefore, copyrighted material could be made available (using the Availability option on your content) for no more than a 15-day period, and your students should be instructed to not make their own copies of the material.

In most cases, this should comply with the Congressional guidelines on fair use.

Adapted from:

Streaming Video

Even if you have lawfully-obtained video or DVD, you do not have the legal right to stream the content online, even within a password-protected educational environment such as Brightspace, nor do you have the legal right to reformat the item (i.e. digitize a VHS tape, create streaming files from a DVD) for streaming purposes.

If you are interested in using a streaming film as a component of course instruction, please see our Streaming Films Research Guide.

Free and Legal Streaming Resources

Listed below are a few resources available online that provide, in most cases, freely available streaming video content.
Large and eclectic online collection of "moving images" that include animation and cartoons, cultural and academic films, feature films, and news programming.
Access to over 2,400 online educational videos and content on a number of topics and subject areas.
Access to full episodes and clips of selected programming, including NOVA and Frontline.
Collection of educational videos, from lectures and discussions to other related content


Please note that the above information is for reference purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. It is advisable to always conduct a Fair Use Analysis whenever there is a question regarding the lawful use of copyrighted material. If, after careful evaluation, it is determined that the use of particular material would violate copyright law, or if you need to purchase copyright permissions for such use, please contact Matthew Van Sleet at 781.891.2311 or

Video and Film FAQs