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Research Guides

Video & Streaming Video: Using Video in Courses

Information about video at the UW Libraries

Using Video in Courses

With the growth of remote education, Congress and the U.S. Copyright Office have created special rules for educational uses of video. (See 17 U.S.C. §110 and 86 Fed. Reg. 59627 (Oct. 28. 2021).) Moreover, as commercially distributed videos are increasingly available only via streaming services, our uses of them are governed by license agreements. So, users—whether large institutions like UW or individual viewers—are bound by license terms that allow certain people to view certain films in certain ways. Because copyright rules and license contracts can be very technical, here is a general overview of options, from simple to complex, to using videos in teaching. A more detailed explanation of relevant law is available online. Please note that this information is subject to change.


1. Use streaming video databases licensed by the UW Libraries. You can link from Canvas directly to each title, and students can view the videos anytime, anywhere.


2. If a title is not available in a database licensed by UW, you may request that the UW Libraries seek a license for the video if it is needed for Course Reserves as required viewing for the entire class. Please complete this streaming media request form to request a title. Setting up streaming agreements often takes time, so please plan for the video to be available two weeks following your request.


3. If a video is available only in a consumer streaming service, students may need to subscribe to that service or purchase or rent individual titles. Unfortunately, many streaming services, such as Netflix and Disney, do not offer subscriptions to educational institutions.


4. You can show an entire DVD in person under these circumstances. (17 U.S.C. §110(1).)

  • The showing is part of teaching activities at a nonprofit educational institution.
  • The copy of the film was lawfully made.
  • The film is shown in a classroom or other instructional space.


5. If you have a copy of a video, you can request permission from the copyright holder to stream it for your students. Once you identify the copyright owner, contact them to explain:

  • which sections of the film you wish to use
  • your use will be non-profit and educational
  • relevant technical factors, for example, only students enrolled in your course will have access to the film.

Keep copies of your correspondence. More suggestions and model permission request letters are available online.


6. DVDs—and even VHS tapes—from the Libraries’ collection can be placed on reserve in the Odegaard Undergraduate Library (OUGL). Please fill out this reserves request form to get started. OUGL provides universal DVD drives for checkout. Note that we may convert a VHS tape to a DVD to accommodate your request.


7. Consider whether the title is in streaming video databases available through public libraries.

  • People who live, work, or go to school in Seattle, Bothell, and many other areas of King County can obtain a library card from the Seattle Public Library (SPL).
  • Those in Tacoma can get a SPL card if they have cards with either Tacoma Public or Pierce County Library.
  • SPL has reciprocal agreements with additional agencies as well. Details are in SPL’s library card FAQs.


8. If you have a DVD with Digital Rights Management (DRM), use clips of the film. Copyright rules allow circumvention of DRM to copy short portions of films for criticism, comment, teaching, or scholarship.


9. If you have a DVD without DRM systems, consider fair use for remote viewing. Fair use is a flexible copyright doctrine that allows limited uses of copyright-protected works. While each situation must be evaluated independently, these actions can help you strengthen your fair use stance.

  • Transform the film into an educational resource for your course. As examples, you might juxtapose content from your syllabus or intersperse clips with review questions or critical analysis.
  • Use films that are integral to your course content.
  • Show only the amount necessary for your teaching objectives. To illustrate, you may not need to show an entire film to study fictional dialogues between sisters or cinematic lighting.
  • Limit access to students enrolled in your course, and show the films only when necessary, not for the duration of the course.
  • Stream on a platform that prevents students from downloading the files.
  • Provide a notice of copyright for the film and general copyright information to your students.
  • These codes of best practices in fair use have more pointers about fair use and film.