Copyright Considerations: Classroom and Academic Media Services Showings

General Copyright Considerations

Copyright law protects authors/creators of original works, including literary dramatic, musical, artistic, and other intellectual products and applies to all forms of reproduction. This protection begins the moment a work is first fixed in a tangible medium of expression and attaches whether or not a work is published or registered. The copyright notice is not required for works published after 1989.

The copyright holder has at least five exclusive rights:

  • To reproduce copies of the work
  • To prepare derivative works based on the original work
  • To distribute copies of the work
  • To publicly perform the work
  • To publicly display the work

If you wish to use a copyrighted work in any of the above ways, you must obtain permission from the copyright holder unless you fall within a statutory exemption (here, section 110(2) of the United States Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C.) or within the fair use doctrine in section 107 of the Copyright Act.

Section 110 of the Copyright Act provides limitations on the exclusive rights of the copyright holder in favor of teachers in nonprofit educational institutions. Section 110(1) allows teachers and students in a nonprofit educational institution to perform or display any copyrighted work in the course of face-to-face instruction in a classroom setting. It is this section which has allowed university instructors to read a poem aloud, act out a play, display a photograph or slide or play an audiovisual work embodied in a videotape. This section does not apply to transmissions or broadcasts, i.e. Academic Media Services.

Special Academic Media Services Considerations

The Copyright Act differentiates between what can be performed and/or displayed in a traditional classroom (faculty and students in the same physical location) as opposed to what can be performed and/or displayed over transmission, including closed circuit or cable, to students at a remote location--even if to WSU students enrolled in a WSU course). Conversely, section 110(2) applies to Academic Media Services transmissions under specified circumstances. Section 110(2) allows the transmission of a performance of a nondramatic literary or musical work or display of a work for systematic instructional activity under the following conditions:

  • The performance or display must be directly related and of materials assistance to the teaching content of the transmission; and
  • The transmission must be received in classrooms or other places normally devoted to instruction.

Examples of such performances and displays are singing a song, reading a short story, or displaying photographs and illustrations.

A literary work is defined in the Copyright Act as “a work, other than an audiovisual work, expressed in words, numbers, or other verbal or numerical symbols or indices, regardless of the nature of the materials objects, such as books, periodicals, manuscripts, phonorecords, film, tapes, disks, or cards, in which they are embodied.” The performance of entire audiovisual works falls outside the purview of section 110(2) and permission should be obtained. Another possible solution would be to have sufficient copies of the work for each location thus taking the performance back into section 110(1).

Showing portions of an audiovisual work may be permitted under section 107, the Fair Use doctrine. For assistance in making a fair use analysis, please refer to WSU's Guidelines for Educational Use of Copyrighted Materials or contact WSU's Copyright Specialist.

Audiovisual Materials

Audiovisual works are defined as works that consist of a series of related images which are intrinsically intended to be shown by the use of machines or devices such as projectors, viewers, or electronic equipment, together with accompanying sounds, if any, regardless of the nature of the material objects, such as films or tapes, in which the works are embodied.

If the proposed material is audiovisual, you cannot transmit it without permission from the copyright holder.This means that without permission:

  • You are not permitted to show/play a visual or audio sequence from a motion picture, videocassette, videolaserdisc, DVD, or CD
  • You are not permitted to show consecutive images from a slide or filmstrip.

Non-Audiovisual Materials

Printed materials

  • Multiple copies for students: permission may/may not be required: See WSU's Guidelines for Educational Use of Copyrighted Materials.
  • May show text, maps, graphs, charts, pictures, cartoons, photographs newspaper articles, etc.

Slides, movies, filmstrips, photographs, or images

  • >May show slides or transparencies from a set as long as they are nonsequential
  • May show a still frame from a filmstrip, motion picture, videocassette, videolaserdisc, DVD, or CD

Music (by itself, i.e, not from motion picture or other audiovisual work)

  • May play, perform, or sing.
  • Creating a derivative work or synchronizing with images likely to be infringement.

Plays or dances

  • May read aloud but cannot act out in dramatic form; cannot perform a dance.

Programs recorded from television:

  • These are audiovisual works; see audiovisual works above.

Getting Permission through Academic Media Services

  1. Check both the media item and its box (if you still have it) for a copyright notice. Although a copyright notice is no longer required for works created after March 1, 1989, many works still use one. If there is a different holder on the box, start with that as it frequently is more recent.
  2. Locate the rights holder and fax them requesting their permissions department. This is generally faster than a telephone call.
  3. After faxing the permission request, wait approximately one week and then follow up with a telephone call to the permissions department. Ascertain that your fax was received and its current location. It may be that the fax did not reach the appropriate individual and you will need to resend. If you and your fax have reached the correct person, you will need to explain your proposed use of their material. Emphasize the nonprofit educational nature of your use, the closed circuit characteristics of the Academic Media Services system, and that the transmission (don't use the word broadcast) only will be viewed by students enrolled in your course as opposed to the public at large. This may also be the time to describe the limited financial resources if any, available to you and your department for royalty payments.

If you cannot ascertain the name of the copyright holder and fax number from the media item or the box, you will need to research the identity of the copyright holder.If you obtained the item from the Media Materials & Reserves (MMR) collection, chances are excellent that the copyright holder is kept on file. Additionally, the MM&R houses a fairly complete collection of the many catalogs available from film distribution companies such as Women Make Movies or Films for the Humanities and Sciences. If the media item belongs to a friend or a department, check out any accompanying materials. Look for the person who ordered or purchased the film for information on where they got it.Some companies are more reasonable than others. If a copyright holder either refuses permission or wants excessive amounts of money, try finding a different media item.

For more information, or to review Washington State University' copyright guidelines, please visit the WSU Copyrights Office.