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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.


Can videos/DVDs be shown to groups on campus (outside of a classroom teaching situation)?

YES - If Public Performance Rights (PPR) have been obtained

U.S. Copyright law requires that PPR be obtained for public showings of copyrighted films outside of the classroom. Examples of a "public showing" would be: student club events, extracurricular activities, a campus film series, etc. Note: The PPR requirement applies to any public showing whether admission is charged or not. 

Public Performance Rights (PPR) are a special license that is either purchased with a video or separately from the video to allow the video to be shown outside of personal home use.  This statute applies to all videos currently under copyright.  This includes videos you have purchased, borrowed from the library, or rented from a video store or services like Netflix.

Do library DVDs & Online Videos have Public Performance Rights included?

The library subscribes to some video streaming services. If you access a video through one of these services from a campus computer (or from off-campus with your school login) you may view the video(s) for educational use.

Please Note:  The library's subscription to the Kanopy streaming media service includes Public Performance Rights.  You may have group showings of available Kanopy films (those that are included in our campus subscription) as long as it is on-campus and no admission is charged.

The library's DVD collection also includes videos that were purchased with Public Performance Rights (PPR). 

Please Note:  Most Feature Films (i.e. Hollywood movies) do not include Public Performance Rights (PPR).

What are Public Domain movies and how can I find them?

What are Public Domain movies?

Public domain movies are not protected by copyright either because they were never copyrighted or their copyright term has expired. Films in the Public Domain can be shown anywhere without the need to obtain Public Performance Rights. 

Here are some web sites that list movies in the Public Domain:

Where can I find free sounds?

The following sites include many sound effects and music clips that are licensed under Creative Commons and thus do not require any additional copyright clearances to use.

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Lori Bryan