Skip to main content

Copyright Tutorial: Audiovisual materials

AV materials

An AV work is composed of sound, sequence of pictures or both. AV works include motion pictures, videos, audiocassettes, CDs, DVDs, etc. AV should not be confused with multimedia which may include several types of AV materials, but has different guidelines.


When discussing AV works, we are talking about Performance and Display rights as well as Fair Use.



The 1976 Copyright Act provided for performance and display(Section 110) in face-to-face teaching situations only. Performance and display to distance students were not allowed under this law unless permission was given or performance rights were licensed with the AV item. Many videos today allow performance rights in the purchase and the library includes this whenever possible. If performance rights are covered under a purchase agreement, then fair use or the TEACH Act cannot be applied; a licensing agreement takes precedence. Transmission over a closed-circuit television within the same building may be permissible. Section 110(2) was amended by the TEACH Act in 2002 to allow transmission of materials to distance education students.

Guidelines for AV materials

ALL of the following conditions must be met for a use to fall under Fair Use. If all five are met, then public performance permission is not required, but if the answer to even one is no, then permission must be received.

  • The display or performance must be in a non-profit educational institution (no problem here)
  • The performance must be by and for students and/or teachers in a class for educational purposes (must related in a timely manner to the lesson at hand for the class only)
  • The performance must take place in a classroom or other instructional setting (no class trips, cafeterias, etc.). Streaming or course management systems may also fall under Fair Use.
  • The media must be legally acquired (no copying is allowed of audio visual materials. Can be rented, borrowed, or owned

Some other considerations when performing or displaying AV:

  • Music may be in the public domain, but the performance and arrangement can be copyrighted
  • Synch rights must be obtained for background music
  • No admission may be charged in a school setting (band concerts). Performance may be fair use, but a copy of the actual print music must be legally obtained for each student and participant.
  • There may be several copyright holders, i.e. on music you may have a composer, performer, producer, arranger, publisher, record label, etc.
  • Extracurricular activities and entertainment purposes do not fall under Fair Use.

Streaming Video

The library makes every effort to obtain streaming rights for video purchases, but they are not always available or may be cost prohibitive. 

We subscribe to several video databases with content ranging from documentaries to medical procedure. You can search for a video using the OneSearch on our homepage or you can search for video databases by going to the A to Z Databases page and limiting your search to video.

Videos without streaming rights are evaluated on a case by case basis for access through Panapto.

Subject Guide

Lori Bryan's picture
Lori Bryan