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Licensing & Copyright for Instructors, Librarians & Students: Licensing and Copyright for Instructors & Librarians

Information on Copyright, Fair Use and Public Performance Rights for Print, AV and more.

Licensing & Copyright for Instructors & Librarians

Do you find yourself wondering what copyrighted material you can and can't use in the classroom?  Or are you planning to show a documentary film on campus and need to find out if you are required to purchase a public performance license before doing so?  Your campus librarian is the best place to go for information!
But in the mean time, here's a little bit of info. to get you going:
Using video & streaming video in the classroom:
You do not need public performance rights to show a video in the classroom as long as:
  • The video relates directly to the class you are teaching
  • It is a face-to-face class and the video is being shown only to students of this class
  • The video was purchased/borrowed/copied/downloaded lawfully (when in doubt, contact your campus librarian)
  • For more information, see the ALA article, What Rights Come with That Movie?

Using Netflix streaming video in the classroom:
According to Netflix, “The Netflix services and any content viewed through our server is for personal and non-commercial use.  If the content is not downloaded with the help of a program, modified, or sold out to a third party distributor you can watch it with no problem.  Since you mentioned it will be used to be showed at a school, as long as the actual title is not downloaded or is being charged for the students to watch it, you are okay to use the services while in class.”  (3/21/2016)

Using streaming video in an online class:
Because this is not a true face-to-face classroom setting, special rules may apply.  It is best to speak to your campus librarian before embedding a video in you online classroom.  That said, there are some resources out there that are OK to stream from your online classroom:

  • Films on Demand (Films Media Group): Films for the Humanities and Sciences on Demand is a subscription database provided by your campus library that provides access to over 7000 educational online videos. Videos are provided online via streaming video. Many videos are available with closed captioning. They cover subjects in the Humanities, Social Sciences, Science, Health, Medicine, Mathematics, and Technology. For help on embedding links in D2L, visit our help page.
  • ECB's Wisconsin Media Lab: Wisconsin Media Lab, a division of ECB, curates cost-free PK-12 multimedia educational content. Our award-winning classroom resources align to Common Core State Standards and span all curricular areas.
  • Many (but not all) of the films contained in the Library of Congress American Memory Collection
Find out more about copyright and resources as they apply to online teaching by visiting our Online Teaching Resource Guide.
Umbrella Licenses for Public Performance Rights for Videos:
  • The Motion Picture Licensing Corporation (MPLC) offers umbrella licenses to individual campuses at a rate of about $1/FTE/year.
  • They do not offer a single umbrella license that will cover multiple locations such as the UW Colleges would need.
  • Campuses are responsible for making sure that the publisher of a video is covered by umbrella license. This can be done by looking at video packaging or IMDB to find publisher and then comparing this to MPLC's list of publishers.
  • For more information call Craig Parker at 1-800-462-8855 ext. 3019

    Last update: 2013

One-time Public Performance Rights Licensing of Videos:

  • MPLC offers one-time public performance licensing of independent & documentary films. Interested parties need to call MPLC well in advance of a showing to let them know about how many people would be attending the performance. Less than 100 people will typically run about $100. (call Craig Parker at 1-800-462-8855 ext. 3019)
  • Swank and Criterion offer one-time public performance licensing for feature films.

Using music in the classroom:

The same Fair Use and Classroom Use exemptions apply to music that apply to video.  In addition, the University of Wisconsin Colleges has institutional blanket licenses with BMI, ASCAP and SESAC which allow for use of music outside the classroom.  For more information on what types of usage are covered by these licenses, please contact the UWC Copyright Subcommittee (UWC-Copyright

Last update: 2014



  • EBSCOhost products (including ebooks) may be used for ILL unless ILL is specifically prohibited by the publisher in the copyright statement within an individual record.
  • That said, you will also need to follow the Fair Use guidelines of the US Copyright law in determining what can and can’t be ILLd.  It’s really a matter of looking at the ebook as if it were print. ILLing a whole book is NOT permitted, nor is ILLing a whole journal.  However, if there's a request for a chapter from an ebook, and there's no publisher statement in the item's individual record that tells you that you can’t use the material for ILL purposes, then you may print out a chapter of the ebook and ILL it--using ILLiad or OCLC's Article Exchange, of course.


Proquest and ILL:

  • The license agreement with Proquest (maintained by CUWL CDC) states that ILL is allowed as long as copyright laws are followed (see fair use).  An additional note pertaining to Early English Books Online (as well as Proquest Dissertations and Theses) states that ILL is restricted to one printed copy of the specific dissertation, book or pamphlet at any one time. 


U.S. Copyright Links

UW Colleges' Pages on Copyright

American Library Association's Page on Libraries & Copyright

Other Useful Links

UW Colleges Librarian

Cheryl Nessman
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