Library:Copyright Resources/draft/Videos in the Classroom

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The Canadian Copyright Act permits instructors to perform any film or other cinematographic work in the classroom, as long as the work is not an infringing copy and was legally obtained. Instructors can also screen films outside of the classroom, provided that the screening is on campus, that the purpose is for education or training, and that the audience consists mainly of students, faculty, or any person who is directly responsible for setting a curriculum for UBC.

If any of these requirements are not met, then a film must include non-theatrical Public Performance Rights (PPR) in order to be shown in a public space on campus. If you wish to screen a film in a residence common room for entertainment purposes, for instance, then you need to use a copy of the film that included PPR. Many of the DVDs in the UBC Library collection include PPR, but the DVDs available from video retailers and rental stores are typically licenced for home use only.

For more information about the educational exception for public performance of cinematographic works, please see section 3.B of UBC's Copyright Guidelines for Faculty, Staff, and Students.

For more information on finding films and videos in the UBC Library collection, including how to book videos for classroom use to ensure they are available on a specific date, please see the Library's Guide to Videos & Films.

Online Streaming Videos

You are free to display online streaming videos (including Youtube videos) in the classroom, provided that the videos meet the requirements listed above, and that you also satisfy the following criteria:

  1. you do not break or circumvent a Digital Lock to access or obtain a copy of the work (see FAQ 3.3);
  2. there is no clear and visible notice on the website or on the work itself that prohibits the use or reproduction of the work (more than just a copyright symbol);
  3. the website is not questionable, infringing or clearly using the works without the copyright owner’s consent ; and
  4. you identify the source of the work and, if available and applicable, the author, performer, maker or broadcaster of the work.

Since it can be difficult to determine whether your use of an online streaming video satisfies these requirements, it is worth discussing each requirement in more detail.

First, please keep in mind that it is illegal to tamper with any digital lock or other technological protection measure (TPM). So if any streaming video includes a digital lock of any kind, it cannot be circumvented. Common examples of digital locks include paywalls and other forms of password-protection, as well as any software that prevents you from accessing, downloading, copying, or editing a digital file without the permission of the copyright owner. For more information on digital locks, please see FAQ 3.3.

Second, if you wish to display an online streaming video in class, then you must examine the webpage where the video has been made available, as well as the parent website, to see if there is a notice that prohibits reproduction of the work. Such a notice might be placed in the immediate vicinity of the video itself, or it could be included within the general legal notices for the parent service or website. When searching for such notices, it helps to look at the links placed at the very bottom of the page, and particularly for links that contain the words "Terms of Use," "Legal," or "Copyright." To mention two popular examples, both iTunes and Netflix have terms of use agreements that prohibit users from displaying content for anything other than personal use.

Third, you must do your best to determine whether the video has been made available with the copyright owner's consent. For instance, while it is easy to find clips from commercial films in Youtube, most of these clips have been uploaded without the copyright owner's consent, and would therefore not be permissible to display in class. To determine the legitimacy of an online streaming video, a good first step is to view the user account information for the party who uploaded the video. If the uploader is an anonymous individual who provides no information about the video's provenance (e.g., its origins and the rights under which it is being made available), then the video is less likely to be a legitimate copy. By contrast, if the uploader identifies themselves, provides contact information, and includes some mention of the video's provenance, then the video is more likely to be a legitimate copy. If in doubt, then try contacting the uploader to seek clarification.

If you would like assistance with determining whether you have satisfied any of the above criteria, please feel free to contact

Advance Permission for Educational Use

There are many websites where you can search for videos that include advance permission for educational use, whether through Creative Commons licences or through the website's "Terms of Use." Some prominent examples include:

  • TEDTalks: Informative, educational, and inspirational lectures and videos on a variety of topics.
  • Creative Commons Content Directories: Lists websites providing images, music, video, and text that use Creative Commons licensing.
  • Internet Archive: Access to downloadable video, audio, text & multimedia in the public domain.
  • Prelinger Archives: Collection of "ephemeral" films: films sponsored by corporations and organizations, educational films, and amateur and home movies. About 65% of the Archive's holdings are in the public domain because their copyrights have expired, or because they were U.S. productions that were published without proper copyright notices. Over 2,000 public domain films are available for download and unrestricted reuse.

News and Commentary

There is an exception in copyright that allows instructors to make and show copies of news and commentary broadcasts for educational purposes. Any instructor at UBC is permitted to:

  • make, at the time of its communication to the public by telecommunication, a single copy of a news program or a news commentary program, excluding documentaries, for the purposes of performing the copy for the students of UBC for educational or training purposes; and
  • perform the copy in public before an audience consisting primarily of students of UBC on its premises for educational or training purposes.

Educational institutions relying on this exception no longer have to pay royalties, destroy copies of news or commentary programs after one year, or keep records of the copies made of news or commentary programs. (UBC Copyright Guidelines for Faculty, Staff, and Students; Section 3.B)

Format Shifting

The Copyright Act contains an exception that might allow an individual to convert a VHS cassette to a DVD or streaming format, but only provided that the reproduction is for private purposes, that the source copy was legally obtained, and that the individual does not circumvent a digital lock. Please note that this exception would not permit you to convert a VHS cassette for the purposes of screening a film in class.


If you have any questions about the information in this guide, or if you would like assistance with determining whether a particular video can be displayed for a class at UBC, please feel free to contact UBC's Scholarly Communications & Copyright Office at