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My department has a video lab. Can we make copies of legally purchased videos (i.e. DVD, VHS, etc.) and distribute those copies to our students?

Can we do this if the purpose is "educational"?
Last Updated: Oct 19, 2011  |  410 Views

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Answer

The only instances where you could legally make copies of entire DVDs, CDs, and VHS tapes for redistribution to your students is if:

  1. You have written permission from the copyright holder.
  2. You or your department entered into some sort of licensing agreement with the publisher that makes copying and redistribution acceptable. 

The University of Texas has a nice overview of this topic:

"Thus, it seems only logical that a prudent librarian would make a copy of the recording for lending, retaining the original for the inevitable time when the lending copy fails to come back or comes back ruined. This intuitive belief, however, is not supported by the plain language of Section 108. The right to archive under subsection (c) (for published works) applies only to replacement of a damaged, deteriorating, lost or stolen copy, or when the format of the recording has become obsolete, and then only when a reasonable effort to locate an unused replacement at a fair price or a device that accommodates the format has proven unsuccessful."

Therefore it is most likely a violation of copyright law to make back-up copies of entire videos (DVD, VHS, CD, audio cassette, etc.) and loan those back-up copies to your students.

This does not mean you are without options. You could:

  • Contact the publisher and ask for permission to make a copy or copies of the video in question.
  • Purchase an additional copy or copies.
  • Show the video in your classroom while all students are present (eliminates the need for multiple copies and separate viewings).
  • Work with the library to acquire additional copies for the library collection, and have those copies placed on course reserve.
  • Utilize the borrowing agreement that Butler University Libraries has with IUPUI.
  • Utilize InterLibrary Loan to borrow videos from external libraries and show these videos in your classroom.

The other option is to conduct a fair use evaluation of the video, copy short excerpts, and make those available for a limited time. Concerning fair use evalutions: Please note that "educational use" is but one of the factors in any fair use evaluation.

"Four factors" are considered in all fair use evaluations. They are:

  1. Purpose & character
  2. Nature of the work
  3. Amount
  4. Effect

These four factors are not meant to be exclusive and must be examined together. 

"Educational use" typically falls under Purpose, Nature, and Amount. For more information about fair use evaluations, see the resources at the bottom of this answer.

Copying by educators must also meet the tests of brevity and spontaneity:

  • Brevity refers to how much you can copy.
  • Spontaneity refers to how many times you can copy or use the copy.

Broadly speaking, one would be hard-pressed to make a valid "fair use" argument for the copying of an entire copyrighted book, journal, DVD, etc. In all fair use evaluations the allowable amounts for copying are fairly restrictive. For example, listed at this link are fairly conservative guidelines, that are based on "best fair use practices" from within the academic library world. This is why Irwin Library sometimes has to place limits on the amounts of material we will place on print or electronic course reserve.

Moreover, according to most interpretations of fair use, the need to copy should occur closely in time to the need and use of the copies. Most academic libraries will refer to this practice as the "one semester rule." If you use something for one semester it is likely to be seen as fair use. If you use something repeatedly, it's less likely to be considered fair use. The expectation is that you will obtain permission as soon as it is feasible, or pay for permissions as soon as possible. Using something over a period of semesters or years is not within the spirit of the fair use guidelines.This is why, for example, on the behalf of faculty, Irwin Library pays semesterly licensing fees to the Copyright Clearance for the repeated use of certain course reserve materials.

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