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Copyright for Educators: Using DVDs in the Classroom

Copyright information for teachers and school staff.

DVDs and Videos in the Classroom

Can you show that DVD of Spielberg's Lincoln in your classroom?

Since RTC is a nonprofit educational institution, it’s legal for RTC instructors to show commercially produced videos, DVDs, and audiotapes  to your classes. This is called "public performance". There are a few conditions you need to meet:

•  You have to show it in the classroom – whether that’s a regular classroom or a lab or a shop.

•  It has to be in the course of  face-to-face teaching activities.  The implication is that it must be fairly directly concerned with the topic you are teaching.

•  It must be for instructional purposes – not to just entertain the class.

•  It must be lawfully acquired.  This includes items that you taped yourself, but wouldn’t include a bootleg tape.

•  It can only be shown to your students – you cannot allow your students to invite their families, significant others, etc.

•  It has to be shown by the instructor or guest lecturer, or by students of the class, as a part of their class work.

Meet these requirements, and you can legally use those commercially produced videos and DVDs in your class.

TV Shows in the Classrom

Can you screen part of a TV show to your class?

You can show that television program you recorded to your class – as long as you follow these guidelines:

•  First, the showing has to meet the same requirements, listed on the left, as a feature film—it must be shown in a classroom, in the course of teaching, to students only, for instructional purposes, and it must be lawfully acquired. 

•  It has to be from one of the commercial networks.  You can’t, for example, record a comedy special from HBO and play it for your students – but you could tape a Saturday Night Live skit (from NBC).  If it was for instructional purposes, of course.

•  You have to show it within 10 days of the time the program aired, and you can only show it twice in the same class.

•  And you do have to include the copyright notice in the broadcast.

•  After 45 days you should get rid of the recording.  (Or keep it for your home use.)  If you really need it for your next year's classes, contact your local television station, the network, or the producers for permission to continue using it.