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Copyright Guide: Film, Video and Images

An online guide that provides information and tutorials to assist faculty with making materials accessible to students.

Using Film and Video in the Classroom

SJU follows the classroom exemption provision of the Copyright Act (Section 110), and the Conference on Fair Use (CONFU) Fair Use Guidelines for Educational Multimedia.

Under these guidelines, most classroom uses of films, videotapes and images are permissible, provided that the showing is by instructors, guest lecturers, or students and is done in connection with face-to-face teaching activities or distance learning.

Films and videos from the collection may not be shown to a for-profit gathering. Films and videos may be shown outside the classroom, provided that the showing is to an individual or small group as part of an educational program (for example, an out-of-class assignment).

For more specific examples, please see the University's Copyright Policy.

Using Film and Video Online

The TEACH Act authorizes educators to digitize works for use in digital distance education, but only to the extent authorized to use those works in Section 110(2), and so long as they are not available digitally in a format free from technological protection. For example, where 110(2) authorizes the use of movie clips, you can digitize those parts using an analog tape; but you are not authorized by the TEACH Act to digitize the whole movie.

Fair use is almost always going to be the best source of authority for making copies in any context, but especially in conjunction with statutes like 110(2) that give us specific authorization that may not be sufficient in a particular case.


Before using an image “found” on the Internet,  an instructor must make sure that it is not copyright-protected.

Public Domain Images                        

Not all images on the Internet are copyright-protected. Images in the public domain are free to use without obtaining permission. Images in the public domain are usually there because their copyrights expired. The Copyright Office recommends verifying that an image is in the public domain before using it on the Internet.  In addition, Drexel Library provides access image databases such as ArtStor that can be freely used in courses.

“Fair Use” Images

The “fair use” law excludes copyright enforcement for some images on the web. For example, copyright laws may not protect photos and images used by news organizations, Universities, and Internet review sites. Factors that determine an image’s “fair use” status include intent of the image user and the effect that use of the image may have on its market value. This line between copyright infringement and “fair use” is not well defined, so act with caution.

Image Modifications

Is it legal to change an existing image and use it on your website? According to the Copyright Office, you are free to change an image as much as you like. However, the copyright will still belong to the image’s original creator. You must get the copyright owner’s permission before claiming copyright ownership of your creation.