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Copyright for Faculty: Streaming Media

Streaming Media in the Classroom

Can I Show Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Redbox, etc. Media in My Classroom?

There may be times when a faculty member wishes to show a film or documentary in class that is housed on a 3rd party streaming site like Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime. As 3rd party sites offer more original/exclusive content, the terms and conditions of fair use blur. This article will serve as a starting point to understanding usage restrictions in an effort to comply with copyright laws and licensing terms.

Keep in mind that 3rd party streaming account licenses overrule copyright exemptions. For example, showing your personal DVD during class is covered by a specific copyright exemption (Section 110), and showing clips can be covered by fair use (Section 107). However, streaming videos from personal subscription vendors in your classroom when the license prohibits such viewings - there is no copyright exemption for that, leading to a problematic situation. Please note that Funderburg Library has made provisions to offer streaming videos through institutional subscription vendors like Films On Demand. Streaming through an institutional subscription is allowed and encouraged in a classroom setting.

Also note - Manchester University does not obtain institutional accounts with the 3rd party streaming services listed below.

Netflix
Netflix has made provisions for educational use of "select" Netflix Original Documentaries. This does not include the entire Netflix database. Additionally, when agreeing to Netflix Terms and Conditions upon account creation, specifications state that the "service and any content viewed through the service is for your personal and non-commercial use only."

The instructions below should be used with your personal account information. To determine if a documentary you wish to stream in a classroom setting is included, complete the following steps:

  1. Navigate to this "All Alphabetical" listing page. NOTE: If this link becomes unusable, contact librarians@manchester.edu for assistance.
  2. Locate and click the title of the film/documentary you wish to view from the list.
  3. If an educational screening Grant of Permission is included, you will see it stated on the description page for the film.
    grant of permission image example
  4. The Grant of Permission entitles a one-time educational screening of permitted documentaries.
    1. You cannot hold screenings of the same documentary several times in one day or one week or one semester.
    2. You can show a documentary once a semester over multiple semesters.

Hulu
When agreeing to Hulu Terms and Conditions upon account creation, specifications state that "using the services, including accessing and viewing the content on a streaming-only basis, [is for] personal, non-commercial purposes."

Hulu has not made provisions for educational screenings of its content. While classroom use would be non-commercial, it would not be considered personal use. Streaming Hulu content in a classroom setting would be a direct violation of licensing terms (section 3.2).

Amazon Prime
When agreeing to Amazon Prime Video Terms and Conditions upon account creation, specifications state that "Amazon grants you a non-exclusive, non-transferable, non-sublicensable, limited license, during the applicable viewing period, to access and view the digital content in accordance with the usage rules, for personal, non-commercial, private use."

Amazon has not made provisions for educational screenings of its content. While classroom use would be non-commercial, it would not be considered personal/private use. Streaming Amazon content in a classroom setting would be a direct violation of licensing terms (section 4h).

Redbox Rentals
When agreeing to Redbox Terms and Conditions, the same personal use only wording is mentioned for streaming "On Demand" titles. There is language that suggests hard copy DVDs may be excluded, but Manchester's legal counsel agrees that educators should be leery interpreting that to mean any hard copy DVD is deemed as copyright exempt.

I Teach a Film Class. What Options Do I Have?
Streaming in a classroom setting from a service deemed for personal use violates the terms and conditions that ultimately trump any copyright exemptions. Options, while not ideal, could include:

  • Utilizing the Netflix Grant of Permission documentary titles as much as possible if streaming is necessary
  • Utilizing Funderburg Library's Films On Demand subscription titles
  • If a film is not included in the Grant of Permission list, requiring students to access film content on their own through their own personal subscription could be included in your syllabus as a course requirement. This would shift watch time to out of class, leaving discussions for in class - a flipped classroom approach
  • Purchasing DVD or Blue Ray discs when available. Contact librarians@manchester.edu for purchase options
  • Contacting the streaming service directly could prove helpful to state your case. In researching this topic, Netflix seems to be the most helpful in providing verbal agreements in some cases to approve streaming in classroom settings. Keep in mind, there usually is no written agreement, and the answer given would be dependent upon who you speak with on any given day. Documentation of some sort would need to be kept on file by the faculty member

--Article by Rebecca Johnson, last edited January, 2019