Copyright FAQ

This information is provided for general reference and does not constitute legal advice. Copyright law consists of many broad statements, some tested in court, others not tested. Interpretation of the law is by no means an exact science. Southwestern University Audiovisual Services provides this information simply as guidelines for the use of copyrighted media on campus. If in doubt, seek a qualified legal opinion from an attorney knowledgeable of copyright law.

A good general rule of thumb:  If the author, producer, or distributor of a copyrighted media work would be deprived of income (no matter how small) from the sale or rental of their intellectual property by your actions, it would be in your best interest not to copy, broadcast, or publicly display the work in question. Think about how you would react to another individual or organization who used, without compensation to you, intellectual property that you spent a lot of time and money developing.



Copying Video and Audio Media

Duplication of copyrighted media, even in an academic setting, may be a violation of copyright law. While the Reproduction of Copyrighted Works by Educators and Librarians may allow the use of part or all of copyrighted works in the classroom, in general we must follow the time tested adage of “If in doubt, leave it out” when considering the use of copyrighted media.

Audiovisual Services cannot under any circumstances make copies of copyrighted videotapes, audiotapes, CDs, or other multimedia items that are readily available on the commercial market.


 I want to make copies of a copyrighted video to put on library reserve for my students.

Audiovisual Services cannot make copies of copyrighted videotapes that are readily available on the commercial market, nor can unlicensed copies made elsewhere be placed on library reserve. We recommend the purchase of additional copies if necessary to make the program widely available to students.

Copyrighted videotapes that are not readily available on the commercial market (i.e. because they are out of production) may be copied by Audiovisual Services only if written permission is obtained from the producer or distributor of the videotape.

In general, personally-made videotapes, such as those made with a camcorder, may be duplicated by Audiovisual Services.


I need to make copies of a video for colleagues or fellow students.

Audiovisual Services can generally only copy personally-made videotapes (i.e. those made with a camcorder). We cannot make copies of copyrighted videotapes.


I have a film that I’d like to have copied to videotape to make it easier to show in the classroom.

In general, copyright law does not permit copying of a film to videotape or other media except in circumstances where the film is no longer available from any source. If the same motion picture is currently available on videotape, the video version must be purchased.

In some cases, very old, out of print films may be transferred to videotape with written copyright clearance from the producer or distributor. It may take time to track down the copyright owner of old films. Also, the cost of contracting the physical film to video transfer may be very high due to the complex equipment required.


 I need to digitize several LP records so that I can use them in class.

In general, if the same recordings are currently available on other media such as CD or in iTunes, new commercially-produced recordings must be purchased.

If the LP recordings are not currently available in any media, they may be transferred to audiotape or CD with written copyright clearance from the owner of the sound recording copyright. It may take time to track down the copyright owner of old LPs.


I need to digitize several audio cassettes so that I can use them in class.

Audio cassettes are an obsolete format.  As such, copyright law allows the content to be transferred to a new medium (such as an audio file).


 I need to edit together some video clips from movies for a class project.

In general, a student may edit several clips from copyrighted videos or other media works into a presentation for a class project. The following criteria should be met:

  • The student should provide a log sheet listing all of the clips, including the title of the program, the name of the producer or distributor, the exact start and end times (from the beginning of the tape) of the clip, and a description of the clip.
  • The clips must be no longer than ten percent or three minutes (whichever is less) (ten percent or thirty seconds for music) of the total original work from which they are excerpted.
  • The clips must not be altered, such as adding music to video, voice-over narration, or special effects.
  • Such tapes may not be used for any purpose other than the class project and as student portfolio components.


Recording Video Programs from Television Broadcasts

 I need to have Audiovisual Services record a program that will be broadcast on television next week so that I can use it in class.

Audiovisual Services will only record specific programs from television, cable television, or satellite broadcast at faculty or staff request for academic use. We cannot systematically record programs solely on speculation. Such recordings are subject to the following criteria:

1. The US Copyright Office’s publication Reproduction of Copyrighted Works by Educators and Librarians stipulates that programs recorded from television broadcasts:

  • May be used in classroom instruction one time within ten days of recording
  • A second classroom showing may reinforce the first showing within the ten day period
  • Tapes may be retained for a period not to exceed the first forty-five consecutive calendar days after date of recording.

Consequently, tapes from broadcast will be delivered directly to the faculty member. The tape must be returned to Audiovisual Services for erasure by the date indicated on the tape. Failure to return tapes for erasure may result in suspension of off-air recording service and/or other privileges.
These tapes cannot be placed in the library catalog or on reserve. Tapes recorded from television broadcast may only be used in the classroom, and may not be shown on the campus cable television system or in public areas on or off campus.

2. In some cases, there may be a one or two year educational use license automatically granted for the program. Tapes recorded with a one or two year license will be placed on faculty reserve in the library and may be checked out by faculty members for unlimited classroom use during the license period. These tapes cannot be made directly available to students. These tapes may not be broadcast on campus cable television or shown in public performance unless additional rights are purchased. Tapes will be erased on the expiration of the license. Please plan classroom use with this date in mind. Failure to return tapes for erasure may result in suspension of off-air recording service privileges. If you anticipate ongoing use of the program after the initial one year license period, please request that a commercially-produced copy of the program be purchased by the university.

3. License agreements for satellite broadcast programs vary. Please be sure to discuss your long-term classroom viewing needs with Audiovisual Services staff at the time the satellite broadcast is recorded. In most cases, satellite broadcast recordings with limited license periods will be placed on library faculty reserve. Satellite broadcast recordings with unlimited license periods will be cataloged and placed in the library collection at the discretion of library staff.

In no case will a broadcast recording be held past the license period. Recordings will be erased by Audiovisual Services staff at the end of the license period. Please keep this in mind when planning your course syllabus.


Showing a Video On Campus

 We want to show a movie to a group of people (ex. a student club) in a room on campus.

Showing a movie for which public performance rights have not been purchased in a room open to the general campus community would be a violation of copyright law if the movie is shown purely for entertainment. This is true for movies rented from a video store and most films in the Southwestern Library. Some films (usually independent documentaries) purchased by the library were purchased with public performance rights.  The Librarian at the Reference Desk on the first floor of the Library can show you how to check if a film was purchased with public performance rights..

If the movie is rented from a distributor that includes specific campus public performance rights (generally at a much higher cost than video store tapes) there would not be a violation of copyright law.

In most cases, if the film is shown outside of a regular class, public performance rights must be purchased.


 I want to show a movie to a group of students in a room on campus as part of a course or seminar.

A movie may be shown on campus without public performance rights if all of the following criteria are met:

  • The showing must occur in a classroom.
  • The audience must be limited to students actually enrolled in a particular course, seminar, or group of courses and the course instructor(s).
  • There should be a bona fide academic “wrap-around” to the showing. This should consist of a lecture and discussion related to the movie, required reports or reviews related to the movie, or other academically related activities.
  • The showing of the movie should be listed in the course syllabus or seminar outline.
  • They must be shown using a legitimate (that is, not illegally reproduced) copy with the copyright notice included.



I want to show a video from Netflix (or similar service) in class.

At this point in time, it is unclear if this is a copyright violation.  However, in many cases (such as Netflix) it is a Terms of Service violation (the terms you agree to when you sign up for a particular service).  For example, the following is from Netflix’s Terms of Service:

“Unless otherwise specified, the Netflix service, and any content viewed through our service, are for your personal and non-commercial use only and we grant you a limited, non exclusive, non transferable, license to access the Netflix service for that purpose. Except for the foregoing limited license, no right, title or interest shall be transferred to you. You may not download (other than through page caching necessary for personal use, or as otherwise expressly permitted by these Terms of Use), modify, copy, distribute, transmit, display, perform, reproduce, duplicate, publish, license, create derivative works from, or offer for sale any information contained on, or obtained from or through, the Netflix website, including but not limited to information contained within a member or members’ Queue, without our express written consent.”


Showing Video on Campus Cable Television

 I would like to show a video on the campus cable television system for my students to watch.

For videos owned by the university, the university must have purchased the specific rights to broadcast the program on the campus cable television system (these are different from he public performance rights mentioned above).

In cases where a video is to be rented, the rental contract must specify that campus cable television broadcast rights are included in the rental fee. Tapes rented from video stores cannot be broadcast on the campus cable television system.

Movies shown regularly by the university on campus cable television are rented by the university from specific distributors with campus cable television broadcast rights. The cost of renting these movies for campus cable television broadcast is significantly higher than video store rental fees.

Video programs are purchased by the Smith Library Center with varying rights. In most cases, we own the rights for classroom use, but must pay additional fees for broadcast over cable television systems or public performance. 


Recording Video or Audio on Campus

 I want to make a video program that involves videotaping on campus. Where can I and can’t I videotape?

In most cases, Southwestern University faculty, students, and staff are free to videotape at any public location on campus. You must always secure the permission of a professor before videotaping in a class or other academic event. You must always secure permission (at least verbally, preferably in writing) before videotaping a guest lecturer.

In general, Southwestern University students, faculty, and staff may videotape people in the public areas of Southwestern University without securing their advance permission. However, you should never videotape anyone who objects to being videotaped. In a videotaping situation where individuals are identified by name, it is a good idea to record their permission to videotape on the videotape before their actual performance, comments, or answers to questions. This is particularly true if the topic is controversial.

Audio taping should should follow the same guidelines as videotaping. Since audio recorders may not be as visible as video recording equipment, it is particularly advisable to announce ahead of time that audio taping will take place in a classroom or other venue.

Videotaping by off-campus organizations must be approved in advance by the Southwestern University Office of University Relations. This is especially true for videotaping by television stations or by individuals or companies that will use the videotape for commercial purposes.

Please contact the Coordinator of Audiovisual Services at (512) 863-1566 for additional information regarding media copyright.