In a traditional, face-to-face classroom setting, instructors have an unlimited right to display legally obtained materials that are relevant to the course.

However, the copyright are more limited in an online course. Using a film or documentary in an online course typically involves steps that are restricted by copyright laws—including digitizing material (which often involves circumventing copyright protections) and streaming material from a server. As a result, we recommend that you review the following options, which include ways to enrich your course with video while still respecting copyright law.

After reviewing the options below, please let us know if you have any questions. If you would like, you may send a list of films and/or video clips to Carla Cantagallo and we will help you determine copyright holder and/or online availability. Ultimately, however, it is the faculty member’s responsibility to secure permissions and adhere to copyright laws.


Here is a list of options for you to consider when adding video content to your course:

1) If you do not already have video content selected, consider using materials that are already freely available or licensed by the university. There are many great video resources that are available online or through university resources. If you have any additional resources that you recommend adding, please contact us.

2) If you already know what video you would like to use, search online to see if there is already a “free” version of it publicly available. Check the publisher’s site (PBS, for example, offers many of its documentaries on their site), YouTube, Hulu, and also search for the film’s title in any search engine. The other public video resources listed above may also be good places to check. If you find a site that offers the film, feel free to place a link directly into your course.

3) Identify an online streaming source where students can buy or rent the film and pay for it themselves (just as they would a textbook or other course material). Possible options include Amazon, YouTube, iTunes, and Netflix . These services have a limited catalog, so make sure that the film is available before referring students. If you plan on using this option, be sure to include the costs that the students will need to pay in the course catalog and the course syllabus. Please see this helpful page regarding the use of Netflix in educational settings:

4) Request rights to change the format and re-broadcast the media from a secure campus server.