Issue Brief on Streaming of Films for Educational Purposes

Last Friday, the Library Copyright Alliance (LCA) released an issue brief that reviews the legal status of streaming entire films to students located outside of physical classrooms. The discussion was prompted by recent news of a disagreement between the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and a media equipment trade association over the streaming of films to students as part of an online courseware system. Innovations in secure streaming and online courseware systems hold significant promise for institutions serving faculty and students who demand increased access to institutional and library holdings. Many questions have been raised concerning the use of these technologies and copyright law, and the LCA issue brief aims to dispel some of the mystery and uncertainty that surround this issue, and to foster a balanced discussion.

The LCA issue brief explains characteristics that could increase the likelihood that a particular use will be allowed as well as the arguments that could lead a court to find in favor of educational uses. It also explains how these statutory provisions interact, and, most importantly, how the scope of fair use is affected by the other provisions in the Act.

The Copyright Act includes several provisions that allow users to copy, perform, distribute, or display works without permission from a rightsholder. The LCA issue brief surveys three provisions of the Copyright Act–Sections 107, 110(1), and 110(2)–that could arguably support streaming entire films. The strongest argument is grounded in Section 107–the fair use provision. Fair use is a flexible, evolving doctrine that is often helpful to scholarly and educational users and users of new technology. Section 110(1) and (2) specifically address the issue of educational use of films, but they are less flexible. Whether these provisions will allow for a particular use will depend on the details of the use as well as how a court chooses to interpret certain key parts of the Act.  View the full issue brief online.
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The Library Copyright Alliance is a coalition of library associations made up of the Association of Research Libraries, the American Library Association, and the Association of College and Research Libraries. Read more about LCA.